Biffy Clyro: Approved by teens and dads
Full disclosure: I am not exactly in Biffy Clyro's target audience. Judging from the packed house at Vega last night, I am about 40 years older than the ‘Mon the Biff’ crowd.
I first became aware of the Scottish alternative rock band featuring Simon Neil (guitar, lead vocals), James Johnston (bass, vocals) and Ben Johnston (drums, vocals) about two years ago as their music blared non-stop from my then 14-year-old daughter's room. Her younger brother also got caught up in the band's poly-rhythmic and alternatively dissonant and melodic songs. Flash forward a couple years, and here I stand, right up against the rail in front of the stage, protecting my offspring from the hundreds of sweaty, thrashing maniacs behind me.
Biffy Clyro came to Vega in support of their new release Opposites, which earned them their first number one on the UK album charts. The band's audience has been growing steadily since their fourth release, 2007’s Puzzle, saw them move away from the heavily Nirvana-influenced crash and burn style of their earlier work and into the mainstream. Their newer songs have hooks big enough to have earned X Factor covers and be used as Premier League background music and are sturdy and melodically interesting.
The influences are clear without ever being overt: some Foo Fighters here, a touch of Metallica or Queens of the Stone Age there. On the big anthems like 'The Captain' or 'Bubbles', traces of Celtic brothers U2 pop up, right down to a "whoah, oh, oh, oh" sing-along that could have been lifted in whole cloth from 'With or Without You'.
Lyrics like, "Help me be the captain of our crippled disguises", are a bit beyond me, but seemed to make perfect sense to the faithful.
The band has opened for some of the biggest acts in the world on some of the largest stages, and their stagecraft is excellent. The rhythm section is tight throughout the songs and the guitar work of Neil and Mike Vennart, formerly of Oceansize, who adds texture to the trio's onstage sound, was from the Edge/Pete Townsend school – power chords in the rockers, big ringing tones in the ballads and mercifully devoid of long, self-indulgent soloing. They rock hard enough to keep the boys moshing while their skinny, tattooed, shirtless rockstar looks make the girls swoon.
Old man that I am, I am the first to bitch when kids behave poorly at shows, but as soon as some of the biggest, most hardcore headbangers in the room realised that my rather small, 11-year-old son was in their midst, they moved him right to the front of the stage and formed a protective scrum around him to prevent him being squashed in the madness. Good form, lads.
Biffy Clyro is slated to be back in Denmark during the summer festival season and are definitely worth a look. Both my kids have already informed me that they will be going again. While I’m not certain I’ll join them, last night’s performance will at least make me consider it.