The killer opening
”We’ll knock down festivals with ‘Wolves of Winter'” drummer Ben Johnston confidently predicted back in March, before the lead single from ‘Elipsis’ had even hit the airwaves. When NME interviewed Simon Neil about the song around the same time, he went one better by claiming that, “it’s probably going to open our sets for the next two and a half years.” Turns out it wasn’t just pre-release bluster: the song really is that effective, even if nothing else from ‘Elipsis’ is greeted quite as rapturously. And when they segue straight into the madcap proggery of ‘Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies’, you know you’re in good hands.
’57’ Bringing It All Back Home
“Day one of the fucking festival,” marvels Simon Neil as he introduces ’57’. “May as well be the last day, man.” Or the first time they ever played it, for that matter. There are not many early Biffy songs that have survived their 15-year transmogrification from splenetic Scottish underdogs to main-stage headliners, but you get the sense that, no matter where the next 15 years take them, this 2001 single will never leave their setlist. Nor should it: Biffy played the long game to get to this level, and songs like ’57’ serve to remind you – and very probably them – of how unlikely their journey has been. There are bigger anthems and better-known choruses on display tonight, but none of them are sung with same mad, disbelieving passion as this one.
‘Machines’ Breaking Hearts
For a band with a nonsense name – and, let’s face it, some fairly nonsensical musical leanings – Biffy Clyro have always done emotional directness rather well. ‘Folding Stars’, Simon’s ode to his late mother, is always guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat, but it’s ‘Machines’ – another track from 2007’s ‘Puzzle’ – that packs the greater punch tonight. Alone with his acoustic guitar, Neil strikes a curious balance between vulnerability and indomitability, while the Johnston brothers’ refrain of “Take the pieces and build them skyward” is the aural equivalent of an arm around the shoulder.
The big singalong
As soon as the words “You know I love you boy…” escape Simon Neil’s mouth, you can feel where this is going: all the way to the back of the arena, until the hairs on the hairs of the back of your neck are standing up. Sure, thanks to X Factor ‘Many of Horror’ has become the very definition of a ‘casual fan’ song, but successful headline sets are built on the backs of such numbers, and when the chorus lands, the moment is euphoric enough to expel any memory of that bucket of warm piss Matt Cardle and his insipid, chart-topping cover version.
The grand finale
In what can only be interpreted as a not-so-subtle reminder of who’s actually sold more records, Fall Out Boy warmed up the stage (literally) for Biffy with an ostentatious display of pyrotechnics worthy of a headline act. The actual headline act, however, only seem to have been emboldened by it. As Biffy’s set comes to a close with ‘Stingin’ Belle’, the sky seems to explode with fireworks; just when you think it’s over, it keeps on going. Clearly, the Biff are not in a taking-prisoners frame of mind tonight – as he introduces the song, Simon even throws some shade A$AP Rocky’s way. “He wasn’t here, was he, the lazy fucker?” he grins. “Too busy fucking a Kardashian, is that it? Us real people don’t matter?”