Live Review: Biffy Clyro – Manchester Apollo

Posted on 10 November 2009
By Danny Keightley
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Biffy Clyro are a difficult band to support, especially when you’re one of the two support acts who are forced to play in a rather confined space in front of a large black veil concealing Biffy’s to-be-revealed backdrop.

Opening act: Pulled Apart By Horses should have been rightfully welcomed by tonight’s (at first) standoffish crowd, ‘wow, full house!’ vocalist Tom Hudson exclaims before he, and his bodacious bandmates provide the Mancunian theatre with caffeine-fuelled chaos – each song is a cataclysmic kick made all the more manic by a showmanship not usually seen from the likes of support bands with such big shoes to fill.

Tonight, they have nothing to lose. It shows. During the opening song, Hudson bravely clambers down towards the crowd, attacking his guitar – screaming into the first front rows who desperately reach up attempting to molest the fully bearded frontman.

Loudmouthed riffer James Brown requests each member of the audience to ‘high five the person next to you’ before clambering onto an amplifier and catapulting himself off as they kick-start the appropriately titled ‘I Punched a Lion in the Throat’. Though despite their best efforts, the crowd mostly seem unmoved, unaffected by Pulled Apart’s energetic performance. Only when Hudson shrieks “Mon the Biffy!” do the crowd show some sort of engagement to the Leeds quartet.

Tonight is a special night for the frontman of the second act to grace tonight’s (miniscule) stage. With a balloon firmly attached to his microphone stand, Andy Hull and Manchester Orchestra modestly wander on stage before the crowd actually realise it IS a band. Not a bunch of bearded roadies trying to steal their attention. “You must be the UK!” keyboardist/sampler Chris Freeman declares. “We’re from the USA! Pretend we’re from Canada!” Their opening banter provides quite a bit of laughter from the audience before they launch into an emotionally driven and tentatively delivered set.

Their new single ‘Shake It Out’ goes down well, but during the restrained stages of their songs when Hull gets a chance to showcase his vocal abilities, the sound of the audience muttering to each other destroys the ambience. “This is the worst birthday ever” Hull dryly exclaims, smiling before bursting the balloon against his chest.

A pity for such an extremely talented band following such an active act, and playing to a crowd who want nothing more than to rock out to the Scots they travelled here to see tonight, Manchester Orchestra (ironically) look and seem to feel sadly out of place.

There is a newly developed atmosphere as the preparations behind the black curtain begin to gradually stir the already existing intrigue that inhabits every member of tonight’s audience. “Mon The Biffy!” scream various spectators and pretty soon the air is a-buzz with the sounds of clapping hands, chants, earth-quaking foot stomps and general screaming from groups of adrenaline-pumped fangirls. When the lights finally dim and Biffy’s sophisticated and ultimately stylish backdrop is revealed, the rioting begins.

Without any need for introductions, they launch into their feverishly catchy ‘That Golden Rule’, (never mind high-five the person next to you), there is a bloke next to me who likes to bring his elbows into play and flails uncontrollably as the song comes to a climactic and devastating close.

The audience is moshpit-pandemonium, and continues writhing in all directions even in the brief gaps between songs when vocalist/guitarist Simon Neil frequently swaps guitars. ‘Who’s Got A Match’ sees the crowd jumping in unison like a throng of frenzied primates, while the singalong (reach for your lighters) acoustics of ‘Machines’ and ‘As Dust Dances’ provides brief moments of intimacy between the three piece and the audience.

Tonight’s songs are mostly picked from Biffy’s fourth studio album ‘Puzzles’ and their impressive new record ‘Only Revolutions’ – the latter go down a treat, fitting seamlessly into their already mightily existing repertoire.

Their lighting rig, and well-arranged backdrop compliments each and every element of their 24 song setlist (including the encore) which sees Neil sweating profusely, topless (much to the joy of the female fanbase), and still going strong even when the bellows of the crowd threaten to compromise his vocal duties.

Brothers James and Ben Johnston look as if they have another ten songs in them, but as Neil declares his thanks for the dedicated crowd in the most hushed manner imaginable, we know we cannot demand any more from the Biffy boys. An intense, bombastic, and tenacious performance from a band who live up to every expectation they set.