On Saturday 26th November Scottish alternative rock band Biffy Clyro hit up the 3Arena, Dublin as part of the UK and Ireland dates of their current tour celebrating the release of their seventh album ‘Ellipsis’ which was released back in July. It was their first show in Dublin in two years. Support on the night came from US alternative rock band Brand New.
The arena was starting to fill up as Brand New took to the stage at 7.30. They were fresh off a US headlining tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of their 3rd album ‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’ so it was expected that their set would focus on material off it. Having caught the band headlining Vicar Street back in September 2015 I knew what to expect from them live but I was still interested in seeing how they would handle a short set as a support act while playing a much larger venue than what they are used to. They started ‘Sowing Season’, off ‘The Devil and God’, with almost all the stage lights off, with vocalist Jesse Lacey’s vocals barely audible, before more lights turned on as the song sprang to life as the sound of the first ‘yeah’ escaped his mouth. Then they played ‘Gasoline’, the only song in the set off their fourth album ‘Daisy’, followed by ‘Millstone’ another song off ‘The Devil and God’. Nextthey played two off their second album ‘Deja Entendu’, ‘Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t’ was first before they sped through possibly their most well-known song ‘Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades’. They finished their set with two more off ‘Devil’; the stage lights turned red as Jesse introduced the first ‘this song is called Degausser’ before they finished their set with a captivating, intense and awe-invoking performance of ‘You Won’t Know’. Towards the end of ‘You Won’t Know’ Jesse dropped his guitar, tossed pics into the crowd and left the stage, guitarist Vincent Accardi soon joined him, leaving the remaining two members to play out the last two minutes of their song and set. With less control of their overall live sound Jesse’s vocals did not sound as strong as they were during their headlining set in Vicar Street back in 2015 but their short set was still almost as atmospheric and powerful: 9/10.
The first thing that needs to be addressed in regards to Biffy Clyro’s set is just how massive their stage production was. In addition to the usual screen on either side of the stage they had screens at the back of the stage itself, a three-floor walkway, large strobe lights and most impressively jaw-dropping of all four large light frames starting from the back of the stage with each one closer to the front of the stage being larger the previous. In between and during songs the colours of the lights on these frames changed, making almost every song in the set seem like its own unique live music video. While I thought Red Hot Chili Peppers stage setup for Tennent’s Vital was incredibly impressive this clearly has topped it.
They took to the stage to the sound of a choir chanting before kicking into the thundering ‘Wolves of Winter’ the first single released off ‘Ellipsis’ with the crowd singing along to it. In typical Biffy Clyro fashion vocalist, Simon Neil, was decked out in a long white coat while Ben and James Johnston had both chosen to come out already topless. They then shot back to 2007 with ‘Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies’, off their fourth album ‘Puzzle’, with the crowd clapping along to its recognizable intro. Three cuts off 2013’s ‘Opposites’ followed, including the massive sing-a-long that is ‘Biblical’ with Simon commenting afterward ‘that was lovely’ before removing his coat and joining his bandmates topless. Recent single ‘Howl’ was received warmly with the crowd singing along. Long-time fans of the band were treated to a rare performance of the ballad like ‘Justboy’ off their debut album ‘Blackened Sky’. ‘Bubbles’, off 2009’s ‘Only Revolutions’, triggered the biggest sing-a-long of the night so far with the crowd jumping along to its chorus. ‘Black Chandelier’, the lead single off ‘Opposites’, triggered another sing-a-long with the crowd singing the part after the breakdown on their own. One of the stand out tracks of the set was one of the heaviest tracks in it, ‘That Golden Rule’, the room absolutely erupted along with its fever pitch, the crowd were screaming along and during it the crowd was also at its liveliest with mosh pits breaking out towards the front of the standing crowd. A surprise came when they played fan favourite ‘Folding Stars’, off ‘Puzzle’, those who knew the words gleefully sang along with it. A more stripped back performance, with no screens or big light, of ‘Re-Arrange’ off ‘Ellipsis’, was surprisingly well received by the crowd as a large portion of the room sang along with the new song. A reminder of their math-rock beginnings came in the form of ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’, off their third album ‘Infinity Land’, however, it was performed without it’s harsh screamed vocals.
The rest of their set was pretty much just hit after hit. Their highest charting single ‘Mountains’ expectantly caused the biggest sing-a-long of the night. ‘9/15ths’ off ‘Puzzle’ was simply captivating with its chanting of ‘we’re on a hellslide, help us, help us’ and its big, dark, atmospheric sound which filled up the arena perfectly. The electronic rock sound of ‘Animal Style’, a newer track, fits in with their older hits perfectly live. Simon talked about how they’ve been coming to Dublin for shows for 15 years now, from the smallest of venues to now playing the 3Arena, before they played yet another big sing-a-long in the form of ‘Many of Horror’. To end the main set thin curtains dropped down in front of the walkway, which left a small section of the stage in front of them for Simon to play fan favourite acoustic ballad ‘Machines’, as the opening bar rang out almost the entire standing crowd proceeded to, in unison, move even closer to the stage, the thin curtains then acted as projector screens which images of light bulbs flickered on during the song. Afterward, Simon showed his appreciation for the crowd moving closer and singing so loudly by saying ‘that was the greatest thing ever, thank you’.
Simon left the stage before the band quickly came back on for the encore launching into a strong performance of ‘The Captain’ with the crowd singing along enthusiastically to the ‘whoa’ parts. While ‘People’ off ‘Ellipsis’ has an interesting, and strong live, sound, I do not think it had any real place being in the encore, it could have easily been switched with any of the hits from earlier in the set. Again, ‘Stingin’ Belle’ is another strong live track but I do not entirely get why they finished with it instead of one of their bigger hits, but it was still a fine finish to the set.
Biffy Clyro as a live band are perfect, but still edgy and raw enough to not be boring. Their huge stage production added plenty to the show but the show would have been one of the stand outs of the year even without it. They are as diverse as ever, something that many bands could simply not pull off, as a result their setlist was as far from boring as possible. All of this along with a 27 song strong set, spanning their entire back catalogue by featuring songs off six of their seven albums, including fan favourites, strong new songs and hit after hit after hit, some of which were not written for arenas but stand side by side perfectly with the ones that were, is why I have no issue with calling their set the best I witnessed in 2016: 10/10.