Biffy Clyro‘s performance tonight (January 12) is a rarity for a few reasons. For one, this is probably the first time anyone has seen frontman Simon Neil on stage with his shirt on for a whole show in the history of the band. Second, Biffy are a band who have reached the upper echelons of live music, headlining Reading & Leeds twice in the last four years and rounded off 2016 with a mammoth gig at London’s The O2. Yet here they are at the Nikon Presents the VO5 NME Awards Nominations Party, playing at new London venue Omeara – a space with a capacity of just 350.
They’ve also swapped their usual face-melting, fully electrified riffs for acoustic guitars and gentle percussion. Their stripped-back set is far from some serious, sullen affair, though. Throughout Neil toys with the audience, turning on a guitar pedal that turns his soft strums into gigantic bolts of noise. Each blast is greeted with huge cheers as the frontman flashes broad grins at bassist James Johnston.
Taking things back to the very basics highlights Biffy’s seismic hooks even more than normal. Right from opener ‘Howl’, those gathered in Omeara’s ornate live room are wrapped in singalong choruses and “woah oh” chants, and put in lung-bursting efforts to provide ample backing vocals for the band.
After a rousing version of ‘The Captain’, Neil takes a break to discuss the reason we’re all here – to celebrate the shortlist for the VO5 NME Awards 2017 being revealed. “We appreciate being nominated for absolutely everything,” he jokes, making further quips about being up for Best British Female.
Sparkling renditions of some of the trio’s best tracks follow, including a take on ‘Mountains’ that’s just as bone-shakingly good as when Biffy are in their natural, rip-roaring habitat. ‘Friends And Enemies’, one of the highlights from 2016’s ‘Ellipsis’, is stripped of its synth backing but sounds just as sweet, while ‘Re-Arrange’ provides a tear-jerking moment, Neil resolutely promising “I would never break your heart“.
There’s only one way to finish the set and that’s with a banger as big as ‘Biblical’. Neil stomps on his pedal one last time and lets out a final screech of sound as drummer Ben Johnston jokingly covers his ears. It’s a fitting finale and the band might as well be describing their performance in the chorus’ “magical“, “wonderful” superlatives. A special night that underscores Biffy’s enduring brilliance.