Biffy Clyro at iTunes Festival: Needs more discovery and invention

October 7, 2012

The Roundhouse shakes while 4,000 people inside shiver with goosebumps when Biffy Clyro are at their best at the iTunes Festival. In between these peaks of rock supremacy is the occasional moment of boredom and mediocrity. It’s no secret the Scottish rockers, as their pseudonym has become, abandoned the sound that made them great two albums ago, but that’s not to say they don’t still make great songs.

Openers Frightened Rabbit do a respectable job warming up the crowd with a perfect representation of Scottish indie rock in its prime but they’re not the band the masses are here to see. Biffy arrive on stage to a bizarre soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel before launching into a strobe-lit intro.

There are more bland ballads now than ballistic aural assaults, but tracks like The Captain and That Golden Rule still produce some of the best reactions of the night. Bubbles, complete with an impressive bubble machine, is one of the most best-executed pieces of live music this reviewer has ever seen. On top of the two additional live musicians, the bare-chested Biffy trio command a huge stage presence. Their energy is barely rivalled and their technical ability remarkable. They are widely regarded as one of the best live bands about – and with good reason.

But at the Roundhouse on Saturday, they try out too many new songs. So much so that even the faithful ‘Mon the Biff crowd lose interest. Songs such as Folding Stars and Many of Horror, so far removed from the frantic brilliance of their first three albums, rouse the crowd – but for the wrong reasons. Everyone loves a good sing-along. But people also like singing along to Wonderwall at 4am stumbling home from the city centre. Objectively, these songs do a gig no favours.

Strung To Your Ribcage and 27 were the only pre-Puzzle tracks on display, and herein lies the greatest weakness of the show. Biffy Clyro have a rich and varied back catalogue which could lay waste to any venue in 90 minutes, and though they perfectly demonstrate this strength with choice cuts, overall they disappoint by allowing weaker songs into their set. Any music fan should see Biffy before death, but do it quickly because album by album, the quality of an ever-diluted setlist is slowly waning.


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