Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
Simon Neil – bare-chested, alone with an acoustic guitar, silhouetted against a white curtain – cuts a lonely figure as he opens Biffy Clyro’s arena tour with an emotionally tender ‘Different People’. His voice breaks as he sings, “Baby, when you hold me/I can feel so wrong”. Then the curtain falls to reveal a leafless tree of life towering over the topless twins James (bass) and Ben (drums) Johnston. Gas canisters fire out their explosive blasts as drums echo and guitars wail. You can’t release a double album – as Biffy just did with their sixth, ‘Opposites’ – and not have something equally grand to match it live. There’s a winding staircase and two platforms protruding into the crowd, but none of it’s tacky.
And of course, there are video screens. Screens which, during the chorus of ‘Sounds Like Balloons’, display an image of the innards of a human body with blood pumping to its extremities as Neil sings, “the sand at the core of our bones”. It doesn’t distract from the songs, only adds to them. The tunes are turned up to 11 as the trio fire ‘Modern Magic Formula’ and the rarely played ‘A Day Of…’ into the devil-horned hands of the crowd. All are mighty singalongs, but ‘Bubbles’ is the mightiest.
“Have we warmed you up enough?” Simon Neil asks the hardy souls at the front who braved the sub-Arctic temperatures in the queue earlier. “Because this place is fucking freezing.” At which point he launches into the hot-as-hell rampage of ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake’.
Things get chilly again with the balladry of ‘God & Satan’ and the aptly titled ‘The Thaw’, before a club-pounding ‘Glitter And Trauma’ and a fiery ‘Who’s Got A Match?’. They finish with ‘Picture A Knife Fight’, the trio’s self-proclaimed “Queen moment”, with Ben thumping his drumkit like Roger Taylor in ‘We Will Rock You’. The encore begins with ‘Skylight’, with Simon positioning himself at the base of the tree to fire blood up the trunk.
There have been people, among them Jake Bugg, who have questioned Biffy Clyro’s ability to headline Reading & Leeds this year. As ‘Stingin’ Belle’ and ‘Mountains’ ring out, everyone here knows that’s just haters hating. Bring on the summer.