Tonight feels like a long time in the making. The last time this writer saw Biffy Clyro live was almost exactly one year ago at London's Kentish Town Forum - a far more intimate venue than the Scottish rockers would usually haunt at this point in their careers, made all the more impactful by having been postponed from its original spring date following a separate tour's cancellation, all thanks to...well...you know what.
If that night was a much-needed moment of communal catharsis and celebration, tonight's headline set at London's O2 is part of the victory lap to end all victory laps: a proper, full-blown Biffy arena shindig in front of a 20,000-strong crowd, many of whom still won't have had the chance to witness cuts from 2020 and 2021's excellent sister albums, A Celebration Of Endings and The Myth Of The Happily Ever After, played live.
Before all that, though, there's the matter of Architects - a band who command arena status themselves these days having headlined London's Alexandra Palace only a few months back, but who tonight find themselves in front of a less-than partisan crowd. "That whole front row's full of people thinking 'Hurry the fuck up so Biffy can come on,'" jokes singer Sam Carter early on, but Brighton's finest certainly have their supporters tonight, and the reactions after each song only get louder as the band's 45 minutes go on.
It's a set almost entirely composed of picks from Architects' two most recent albums - 2021's For Those That Wish To Exist and this year's The Classic Symptoms Of A Broken Spirit - with just one track, 2018's Doomsday, breaking the trend. In fact, absolutely nothing from the band's seven previous albums airs, and while it might make Architects diehards wince, you can't really argue with the logic; songs like Deep Fake, A New Moral Low Ground and When We Were Young are slick, streamlined and purpose-built for venues like these, and they sound fantastic. By the time a riotous Animals produces the biggest singalongs of the night so far, it's clear where Architects have their sights set moving forwards.
As great as Architects are, there really is no competing with a big-ass, full-hearted Biffy Clyro show in front of their own fans. Backed by giant screens that tower over a dazzling, three-tiered LED stage, the Kilmarnock trio - fleshed out by live members Mike Vennart (guitar) and Richard Ingram (keys) - are a revelation from the off. Kicking off with morose ...Happily Ever After album opener DumDum, bathed in red light and vocals layered with eerie echo effects, frontman Simon Neil looks like a mournful hipster prophet as he gazes over the O2, getting increasingly frantic as the song builds to its clattering crescendo. Then, the purgative explosion of A Hunger In Your Haunt arrives, and over the next two hours we're treated to a smorgasbord of career-spanning Biffy bangers.
At this point, the Scots have amassed an all-time great catalogue of hits, the likes of Black Chandelier, Who's Got A Match, That Golden Rule and Mountains - a song which closed out their triumphant Reading and Leeds headline slots almost a decade ago - all getting airings before the set is even a third of the way through. While the biggest singalongs of the night are undoubtedly reserved for Only Revolutions material (The Captain threatens to take the roof off the place), there isn't a song played that doesn't get a big reaction - not least golden oldie 57, turning 20 this year and sounding here like a nostalgic throwback to the post-hardcore-dominated scene in which Biffy first emerged.
During the first half of Unknown Male 01, Neil lies across a platform, shoves a phone in his face and streams live to the huge screens behind him, giving the audience an up close and personal angle of the singer as he croons the song's opening lyrics. It's a candid moment that captures Biffy's ability to straddle the intimate and the epic, the presence of two violinists for some of the band's more expansive tracks somehow helping to amplify both traits.
"It's so great to see you, London" grins bassist James Johnston at one point, his twin brother Ben beaming from behind the kit nearby. Biffy aren't ones to go overboard on the crowd patter, but when they express their happiness at being here, there's no doubting their sincerity. A five-song encore kicks off with emotional, acoustic renditions of God & Satan and Opposites (violinists in tow), before a triple-whammy of Glitter And Trauma, Bubbles and a searing Many Of Horror has hands linking, arms swaying and throats vibrating all over the joint.
"We are Biffy. Fuckin' Clyro," Neils shouts for the third or fourth time tonight as the show comes to an end. That they are, and the UK remains lucky to have them.