BIFFY CLYRO Le Bataclan, Paris 25/9/18
There are no other bands that I have ever walked a 12- mile round
trip to go and watch apart from when I went to see Biffy Clyro in
Edinburgh in 2007. There are also no other bands that I have ever
flown to go and watch either. So here I am, reunited with three Scotsmen
who clearly mean the world to me and a lot of other people, on a very
special tour that sees them strip down their usual gigantic sound
to fit the MTV Unplugged formula. Due to the popularity explosion
they have experienced in recent years, we couldnt get tickets
to watch them in the UK but, in hindsight, Paris - and this particularly
intimate venue seems a unique setting for this show anyway.
Of course, the world will remember what happened nearly three years
ago at Le Bataclan. A stunning building dating back to the mid-1800s,
the bars and cafes surrounding it are full of rock fans this evening,
of many nationalities, like they would have been on 13th November,
2015. We spoke to a sweet girl who had flown from America because
she loves Biffy so much, clutching two small plastic horses in a bag
to give to her favourite band member, drummer Ben. Its an incredible
feeling to be there with these people, all the more poignant that
this should still be a place for music lovers after what happened
here. The moment I set foot inside, myself and my friends are filled
with an overwhelming sadness, mixed with the obvious excitement and
a little anxiety. We are thinking: this could have been us.
Its a feeling that lasts long after the show has ended.
(Pic Anna C)
What else is there to do then, but to savour every part
of this. Even the fake foliage on the office chairs they are to sit
on doesnt detract from Biffys set design, complete with
model tree and string lights to add appropriate ambience. From the
opening bars of The Captain, the room is filled with an
intense energy, the audience a mass of terrible mock Scots accents,
enthusiastically emulating Simon Neils distinctive vocal but
nevertheless creating a celebration of life that I have never before
seen at a gig and probably never will again. Also flanked this evening
by a pianist, cellist and second guitarist, the trio are dressed beautifully
in suits, Neil with his recently cropped hair (thank God). The production
is perfect down to the last detail, so much so that the plus one later
says he feels like he was watching a boy band at times. I tut but
I admit that I see what he means. There is some choreography as they
move around the stage, at one point the drummer and bassist emerging
and then fading back into the shadows after providing backing vocals.
Its so different to anything that the band has done before that
it cant help but be surprising, though that is kind of the point.
And when the spotlight goes to Simon for new song Adored,
he is quick to announce this version is not in the least what their
new album will sound like. Again, it is a highly polished performance.
Standing without his guitar, offering up a weird vulnerability, the
melody is contemplative and the mood is hushed. With a set-list showcasing
material predominantly from the last three albums, most songs are
filled with custom-made moments to routinely clap in time to so might
feel a little bit more soulless to the more cynical fans hankering
after the likes of Blackened Sky or even Infinity
Land. Adored is a glimpse of new meaning.
(Pic Steve Gillett)
Their transformation over the years is both faultless
and captivating, I think, signalling that life goes on. They have
a versatility that should be admired. I want to thank them from the
bottom of my jaded, aging heart, by giving them my full attention.
Its encapsulating to soak it in even if we are so close to the
band that its a little awkward (or maybe thats because
I find it a bit bizarre that I am fan-girling on three men my age).
When Simon Neil stands almost in front of us- just him, Ben on glockenspiel
and Folding Stars- it is for this reason too that I am
stoic in my lack of tears and even make it dry-eyed through Mountains,
Opposite and Machines. As Dust Dances
and Justboy also creep in like old friends. Someone actually
says f*cking hell in disbelief when they start playing
the latter. Yes, its moments like these that smash their way
through the glittering veneer with a solid nostalgia while you were
questioning if the boy had been lost behind it. A few fans shout Mon
the Biff and Simon softly sneers: You mon the fucking
Biff. No, there he is.
During the finale of Many of Horror, I finally start to
choke up, a sea of people standing with arms raised, singing at the
top of their voices, letting anyone listening know that live music
is freedom, even if we are dancing amongst ghosts. It is a profound
experience in all seriousness, and one that has touched me deeply.
This moment wont come again, Simon assures us. They are coming
back with a heavy metal album next year. Everything is going to be
OK. My friends met all three members afterwards but I had already
walked across Paris by then. What would I have said to them anyway?
Probably something about their well-fitting trousers. As the office
chair is wheeled past the waiting faithful few at the end of the evening,
complete with plastic leaves still attached, Biffys next move
will be highly anticipated. So will their trousers. And probably their