Friday, 1 July 2011

'All These Great Answers, And All These Great Questions' - Biffy Clyro DVD Premiere, West End Odeon, 30/06/2011



Being in one of the biggest rocks bands in the country right now, Simon Neil and twins Ben and James Johnston (more commonly known as Biffy Clyro) are more used to slaying stadiums and festivals, rather than cinemas. However, to celebrate the release of their prolific DVD ‘Revolutions//Wembley’, the Scottish trio stripped back their raucous rock in the West End Odeon last night, playing a selection of acoustic tracks for a small group of fans, as well as answering questions, before unleashing the DVD in its entirety.

Upon being seated, it became instantly notable how much of a fans band Biffy has become. Glancing across the room displayed an array of ages, nationalities and Biffy merchandise from tours spanning their entire career of over 15 years. With chants of “Mon the Biff!” erupting at random intervals, seemingly irrepressible, the atmosphere was palpable. One fan in particular simply couldn’t contain herself, sneaking to the side door every few minutes to try and catch a sneak peak of her idols. The fact that she was clearly way past her 20’s made it even clearer that this was a band with very special powers.

She didn’t have to wait long. Following a short introduction by long time Biffy fan and Radio 1 DJ Edith Bowman, the band arrived onstage with jovial waves to the cheering crowd, before settling into a beautiful rendition of Little Soldiers, a b side to their 2008 hit single “Mountains”. This laid down the theme for the set, a collection of fan favourites and B sides, a special treat for so many of the long term Clyro followers, many of whom had never heard these tracks live before, and certainly not in such an intimate setting. This thought was not lost on vocalist Simon Neil who introduced both “Breatheher” and “Loneliness” by name, before culminating in Puzzle favourite “A Whole Child Ago”, perfectly displaying his enigmatic, ragged voice, as well as drummer Ben’s more than capable backing vocals.

Next up was a Q&A session, allowing fans to ask their most burning questions directly to the band. Disappointingly, many squandered this opportunity, simply using it as a vehicle to feverishly request autographs from the band. However, some interesting and amusing inquiries were made including where the band buy their notorious brightly coloured stage jeans (“oh, just second shops and such” answered Neil sarcastically, to much laughter), who they have been starstruck by (a universal response of Dave Grohl, although Ben did point out that he shouldn’t be feared, because he “does a poo like everyone else!”) and the inevitable “Why did you sell your song to X Factor?” which the band answered very diplomatically and fairly, simply stating that “we started out doing covers, and everyone has to start somewhere.”. In a further act of generosity, they even tagged another song “Hope For An Angel” onto the end of the evening, after one long term fan professed his regret that he had never heard it live despite following them since their live beginning.

I  was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ask their band about their impending Sonisphere headline performance, and wondered aloud if the band would be taking the metal influence into account when choosing the setlist. She was heartened to hear that they were “planning on just sticking to what we do best; if they want metal they can just go see Slayer”. Finishing his answer with a smile in my direction (be still my beating heart!) and the jokey assurance that they’d be waiting outside Stevenage town centres branch of Greg’s bakery to meet fans only reinforced how relaxed they were in the nights setting, content to be at one with their audience.

And so we came to the purpose of the evening; the cinematic screening of Revolutions//Wembley, recorded at, you guessed it, Wembley arena in Winter 2010. As expected, it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it serves as a perfect time capsule for any Biffy Clyro fan, reflecting a refreshing loyalty from the band towards both their newer, more commercial success as well as the older fan favourites such as “All The Way Down” and “Diary of Always”, which end up being highlights of the set. Filmed with emphasis on the ever passionate and well voiced Wembley crowd, “Mon the Biff!” emblazoned with Sharpies across their hands, songs such as “Machines” and “Folding Stars” (recorded in the aftermath of Simon Neil’s mother’s death) hold particular poignancy when played acoustically in such a large arena, only Neil’s voice and guitar in evidence. The near hush of the crowd indicated a level of respect towards such personal songs, and caused even the real time crowd at the screening to become emotional. Within this seems to lie Biffy Clyro’s appeal: whilst they might be famed for being a traditional rock act, their softer moments are truly heart-breaking.

I have always been a supporter of Biffy Clyro, but tonight really demonstrated just how talented and tight a unit they are. It’s fair to say that when they started out 15 years ago, they never expected to be selling out Wembley and releasing a DVD of it, but they have slotted into their new found fame with grace and humbleness, as comfortable in an arena as in a small cinema. It seems that everything they do, they do with their fans in mind, lending to their longevity. And with so many career defining festival appearances around the corner, plus a new album early next year (confirmed in the Q&A) long may it continue!

Acoustic Setlist
Little Soldiers
Questions And Answers
Loneliness
Breatheher
A Whole Child Ago
Hope For An Angel (fan request)

See below for my video recording of the Q&A session, apologies for poor sound quality in places...

Biffy Clyro Q&A Interview (DVD Premiere) by safetyinsound

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