Some things are just worth the wait. One year and three months since Biffy Clyro first announced their intimate Fingers Crossed tour – and seven months on from the tour’s original scheduled dates – Scotland’s greatest 21st century export are finally back on the road. Last night, they stopped off at London’s 02 Forum for an emotional, cathartic night of melodic rock bangers.
Here’s what we learned on a majestic Tuesday evening in Kentish Town.
People have been well and truly starved of gigs
The excitement around the Forum as the lights go down and Simon Neil, brothers James and Ben Johnston and live members Mike Vennart and Richard Ingram take the stage is, quite simply, fucking electric.
With live shows having only really come back to full capacity over the past couple of months or so here in the UK, for many of the two thousand-odd people in attendance, this will be their first concert of the pandemic era. And you can absolutely feel it; the crowd goes in full-heartedly from the opening seconds of set-opener DumDum to the final, frenetic notes of Cop Syrup two hours later.
It speaks volumes of Biffy’s current form that DumDum – the opening track of new album The Myth Of The Happily Ever After and a song that has only been in the public consciousness for ten days – is treated like an all-time classic, Simon’s first ‘This is how we fuck it from the start’ being screamed back at him by two thousand impassioned voices. Which brings us to our next point…
Biffy are on the form of their lives
Let’s be frank: Biffy Clyro have rarely put a foot wrong in their 25-plus years on this planet, but over the course of the pandemic, they’ve put out two records of such top-tier quality that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single dud second between the two of them. 2020’s A Celebration Of Endings was a heart-exploding, timely piece of catharsis released right as the UK was starting to find some hope in the madness of the COVID crisis, while …Happily Ever After is the emotionally dense, simmering denouement to accompany it.
Both have given us world-class new Biffy anthems in abundance, and the band waste no time in finally giving them a proper airing tonight, with well over half the set dedicated to those two records. The songs all flow into a Biffy set as seamlessly as if they’ve always been there; the searing urgency of A Hunger In Your Haunt draws singalongs fit for a stadium; people begin humming along to the punchy opening notes North Of No South before Simon has so much has uttered a word and the likes of Unknown Male 01, Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep (most wonderfully daft song title of the year?) and Cop Syrup are masterclasses in tension-building eruptions, heavy enough to open up circle pits and anthemic enough to spark pure, air-punching delirium.
There aren’t many bands nine albums in that could focus so heavily on their two most recent records and not miss a step, but Biffy do it with style tonight.
Seeing Biffy classics played in venues this size is a privilege
Their most intimate tour for some time, the Fingers Crossed dates see Biffy heading back to venues they haven’t played in ten years or more – and it feels like a privilege to see them here. Biffy staples like Mountains and Bubbles have long outgrown these surroundings, so when you’re used to seeing tens of thousands of people bellowing along to them at festival headline sets, getting to see them here is particularly special.
Needless to say, they cause absolute pandemonium; a gargantuan Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies – one of two tracks dusted off from beloved 2007 classic Puzzle – sounding every bit as unique, affirming and vital in 2021 as it did 14 years ago.
The Biffy ‘paint motif’ is already iconic
Thematically matching their two most recent records with the use of the paint streak motif doesn’t just help to tie together a unique chapter in Biffy’s story; it’s savvily created an iconic new visage for the band, and the smaller setting for tonight’s show allows for that iconography to shine.
There’s no pyro or fussy effects tonight: all that’s on show is a plain white backdrop featuring the simple red paint streak of …Happily Ever After, plus matching amps and a killer light show. Bassist James even arrives on stage in a scarlet red suit, adding to a simple but effective visual that looks stunning when the lights bathe it all in – you guessed it – red. Who needs flame cannons when you’ve got a spot of paint to go around?
You can never have too many Biffy songs
It speaks volumes of the strength of Biffy’s material and their strong connection with their fans that the set goes 23 songs and two hours long, and yet there is never a single second where it feels like anything is dragging. An acoustic run-through of Machines, featuring a shirtless and sweaty Simon alone on stage, is the only real thing close to a breath-catcher, and there’s absolutely no room for toilet breaks – every track feels necessary and is greeted voraciously.
Amazingly, come the end of a two-song encore composed of Opposites favourite Black Chandelier and A Celebration Of Endings closer Cop Syrup, you feel like you could happily absorb even more. “We’ve missed you, London,” grins Simon after a celebratory run-through of Tiny Indoor Fireworks. Same, lads. We’ve missed this.
Download 2022’s show is going to be unmissable
There’s always been a touch of divisiveness about Biffy Clyro being booked to headline ‘heavy’ music festivals, having topped the bill at Sonisphere in 2011 and Download in 2017. Quite frankly, such debate is bollocks. Biffy are a national treasure of the British rock scene, able to conjure riffs heavy enough to flatten a building and song structures that remain totally off-kilter and unpredictable, all while producing the most heart-tugging melodies and choruses fit to fill stadiums.
If reactions like tonight are what we’re seeing for a set predominately composed of newer songs, what’s going to happen when they’re even more bedded in and rolled out to 90,000 people at Donington next summer? If the Fingers Crossed tour was Biffy’s official comeback run, everything from here on in is going to be a victory lap for the UK’s most in-form band. In a world of uncertainties, thank fuck for Biffy Clyro.
The Myth Of The Happily Ever After is out now via Warner Music/14th Floor Records. Biffy Clyro headline the UK's Download Festival in June 2022.
Biffy Clyro Kentish Town Forum Setlist
A Hunger in Your Haunt
Tiny Indoor Fireworks
Errors in the History of God
North of No South
That Golden Rule
Unknown Male 01
Machines (Simon solo acoustic)
The Pink Limit
Wolves of Winter
Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies
Many of Horror