REVIEW: Biffy Clyro, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

If ever you needed evidence that a band can come back better after taking time out, look no further than Biffy Clyro.

Saturday, 3rd December 2016, 2:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 2:41 pm
Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro in action at the Metro Radio Arena.

The Scottish rockers disappointed many fans when they declared after touring the legs off their chart-topping 2013 album Opposites that they were taking a year off.

Now those same fans are glad they did, after they returned with their seventh studio album, Ellipsis - possibly the best of their career - in July.

The show benefited from huge production values.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This gig was part of an extensive tour promoting that record, which followed its predecessor to the top spot, giving them their third No. 1 record.

It's testament to their pulling power that even though it's less than a month to Christmas, they still managed to play to a three-quarters-full Arena. But first the aperitif...

If, around a decade ago, you'd placed a wager on which of tonight's acts would headline arenas, the smart money would probably have been on Long Island's Brand New.

While Biffy were still a cultish, uncommercial oddity, this quartet were transcending their emo roots and unleashing their masterpiece The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, a weighty, cathartic epic which placed them on the verge of a wider breakthrough.

Taps aff for Biffy Clyro bass player James Johnston.

Unfortunately they failed to capitalise on that, and these days face rumours they're on their last legs - not entirely surprising considering they've only produced one album since.

There was no new material here either, though should tonight indeed prove their last visit to Newcastle, it will at least have left fans with further fond memories.

Jesse Lacey's vocals were a little in and out, yet it was difficult to complain about a 45 minutes which leant heavily on their finest hour.

Old favourites Degausser and You Wont Know were particularly notable, and welcome reminders of a terrific band whose time, sadly, appears to have passed.

Biffy Clyro make the most of their arena-sized stage set.

The same cannot be said of the main attraction, who last played here more than three years ago, and seem to be on another upward curve.

Guitarist Simon Neil, bassist James Johnston, and his twin brother Ben, on drums, create an almighty noise for a three-piece, but there's only so much of an arena-sized stage three people can cover, you'd think.

Not so. Although their stage show and lighting set-up have assumed the proportions you'd expect from a band who are top-billing festival regulars, they still generate the sort of atmosphere you find in sweaty club gigs.

Part of that is down to the enthusiasm they put into their performance. Neil took to the stage wearing a huge white coat, but after four songs it was 'taps aff' as he joined the Johnstons in playing naked from the waist up.

Simon Neil churns out some power chords.

The opening song, Wolves Of Winter, is the first track and one of the strongest on Ellipsis, and it was no surprise that the latest album contributed 10 songs towards a setlist stretching to 27 prime cuts of blistering alternative rock.

The likes of Howl, Animal Style, Herex and Friends And Enemies had the place rocking, but the wonderful Re-Arrange and Medicine showed Biffy are just as adept at penning reflective acoustic numbers as they are at juddering power chords.

It wasn't all new songs; they tipped a nod to their early math-rock days with a song each from the Infinity Land and Blackened Sky records, though second album The Vertigo Of Bliss was ignored entirely.

Otherwise, they gave the audience the songs they wanted to hear. From Only Revolutions, their first No. 1 album, they dusted off Bubbles, which lifted the whole place, the still-thrilling That Golden Rule, a suitably-gigantic Mountains, and Many Of Horror, which even the X Factor hasn't managed to ruin.

There were six cuts from Opposites, including the excellent Black Chandelier, which was a mid-set highlight, and Stingin' Belle, which brought the three-song encore to a climatic close.

But the standout track, for me, was The Captain, the first song of the encore, which prompted one of many mass singalongs and showed Biffy in all their glorious pomp.

The show benefited from huge production values.

A couple of songs later they were done, with Neil thanking the crowd for their support and promising: "Let's not leave it so long next time."

After a night like this, who's going to argue? 'Mon the Biff!

Taps aff for Biffy Clyro bass player James Johnston.
Biffy Clyro make the most of their arena-sized stage set.
Simon Neil churns out some power chords.