Biffy Clyro - Manchester Apollo

Saturday night at the Apollo was not for the faint of heart. From the get-go the music was loud, fast and furious.

Speed metal Leeds band Pulled Apart By Horses opened up the proceedings with an adrenalin-fuelled set made all the more enjoyable by their excellent showmanship, with guitarist and vocalist Tom Hudson spending as much time in the audience as on stage. Their set included tracks from their forthcoming debut album (due out early next year), ‘E=MC Hammer’, ‘Meat Balloon’ and ‘Get Off My Ghost Train’. The excellent Atlanta, Georgia band Manchester Orchestra was next, their wonderful brand of melodic hard rock quickly winning over the crowd. The short but sweet set featured songs from their latest album Mean Everything To Nothing including ‘Pride’, ‘I’ve Got Friends’ and new single ‘Shake It Out.’

Next was The Bif.

The stage was obscured by a billowing black curtain, like a sail on a pirate ship, the preparations going on in secret increasing the already intense air of expectation that permeated the venue like a storm warning. Soon claps, stomps and shouts of “BIFFY” filled the air, the rabble no longer able to contain their impatience. Finally the lights dimmed and the riotous roar that filled the air was both deafening and terrifying. The band took the stage kicking the door open with ‘That Golden Rule’, one of the gems from their sensational new album Only Revolutions. From that moment on it was “'Mon the Biffy”, the pirates from the north firing off volley after volley of high-octane rock tracks taken predominately from the new album and 2007’s Puzzle but also including a smattering of old favourites from all five albums. From my vantage point up in the crow’s nest the crowd below looked less like human beings and more like a force five hurricane brewing, with a whirlpool of arms and limbs flying everywhere as if the audience had been caught in some glorious meat-grinder. The entire floor was one big mosh pit.

There was always something Wagnerian about Biffy Clyro’s music, grandiose and epic, this is the band you want playing at the big Valhalla food fight. Yet the almost operatic intensity of the music can sometimes overshadow Simon Neil’s intense and at times deeply personal lyrics, and you almost forget just what a first-rate lyricist he is. Take the second song of the set, the truly magnificent ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ from Puzzle, written after the death of Neil's mother. On album the song is supplemented by strings and full choir, but on stage it’s just the band, guitarist and lead vocalist Neil, bassist James Johnston, and drummer Ben Johnston. No guest musicians, no backing tracks, yet the song loses none of its intensity, the crowd more than capable of providing any necessary backing vocals. The song, with its staccato blend of guitar drum and bass like rounds of gunfire, sent the crowd into a frenzy. After that it was every man for himself.

More classic gems from Puzzle and 2002’s Blackened Sky followed including ‘A Whole Child Ago’, ‘Who’s Got a Match’ ‘9/15ths, ’57’ and ‘Get F*ked Stud’, the hysterical crowd singing lustily along. Sandwiched in between the established classics were songs taken from the new album, Only Revolutions, released on November 9th. ‘Bubbles’, ‘Born On A Horse’ and ‘Cloud Of Stink’ fit in perfectly within the set, and are well on their way of becoming core set-pieces.

It’s nice when a band that rocks as hard as this can risk slowing down the momentum by exposing their soft underbelly. But at this point the mutineers had the crowd clenched tightly in the palms of their hands. The audience singing along to ‘Machines’ threatened to drown-out the band, and Neil wisely gave them full-rein letting them take on lead vocal duties while he watched from above like the pirate king. And ‘God And Satan’ from the new album went down a storm, the hushed crowd entranced by Neil’s subtle yet intense performance.

But the lull was merely transitory, and the band fired off the cannons with a blitz from the last four albums including ‘Glitter and Trauma’ from 2004’s Infinity Land and ‘Liberate The Illiterate/A Mong Among Mingers’ from The Vertigo of Bliss from 2003. Show-stopper ‘The Captain’ finished off the set, getting even the landlubbers in the balcony onto their feet.

When the new album finally hits the shops Monday it is a certainty that intimate gigs like this will become a thing of the past. Not a single person in the packed Apollo Theatre was at a loss to appreciate the privilege of being witness to such an event, a band about to hit The Big Time. The coup d’etat complete, the victorious invaders are now ready to take their rightful place as Rock Royalty, and the audience proud to be there to send them on their way.

Setlist:
That Golden Rule
Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies
A Whole Child Ago
Bubbles
Who’s Got A Match?
9/15ths
57
Born On A Horse
Get Fucked Stud
Machines
Now I’m Everyone
Cloud of Stink
Justboy
Love Has A Diameter
There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake
God And Satan
Glitter and Trauma
Liberate The Illiterate/A Mong Among Mingers
Saturday Superhouse
The Captain
Encore:
Joy.Discovery.Invention
Semi-Mental
As Dust Dances
Mountains

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