Biffy Clyro, DC9, Washington DC
Probably every bit as memorable to the band as it was to the punters.Read more on Biffy Clyro Listen to Biffy Clyro on Spotify
It’s incredible that after 15 years, five albums and massive success in Britain, Scottish hard rockers Biffy Clyro are now just getting round to their first headlining tour of North America. Thanks to twins Ben and James Johnston’s visa issues and delayed arrival stateside, Wednesday night at DC9 was the trio’s first-ever headlining gig in America. The evening also happened to be the grand opening of the venue’s brand new rooftop bar, where the band spoke to fans before the show while having a commanding bird’s eye view of the Nation’s Capital. A nice gesture considering the gig would start over an hour late.
‘Dedicated’ is a good word to describe Biffy Clyro’s fans, with surely much money spent and many miles travelled by punters in possession of English, Scottish, German, Italian and other accents that mixed in with local American ones at the venue. As would be expected, the trio appear initially and play the entire gig shirtless, which is probably a good thing as the bleached blond hair of lead singer Simon Neil is dripping with sweat by the start of the third song, simply from the sheer physical exertion of playing his guitar frantically.
There is barely a breath between songs in this one-hour, ‘Only Revolutions’-heavy set, as Neil and bassist James Johnston exchange their guitars quickly with a roadie, next guitar in hand. Maybe they are afraid of having a lull in the proceedings? You can probably imagine there is little chance of this happening. The staccato ‘Who’s Got a Match?’ and ‘Born on a Horse’ (with, surprisingly, a synth!) are two songs that sound great live but seem to be in direct opposition to the Biffy image: hard living, tattooed hard rockers you’d be afraid to bring home to mum. Ironically (or not?), Biffy Clyro shines brightest during the rare, quiet, reflective moment, exhibiting their ability to write more than just noisy, post-hardcore tracks. When Neil’s fragile lyrics are proffered to the listener and the underlying melody comes through along with the epic guitars, it’s golden: see ‘God and Satan’ and ‘Many of Horror’.
Otherwise, you need to be one of the Biffy devoted to be drawn into their world of screaming guitars and thunderous drums. At one point, James Johnston has the audacity to ask the crowd, ‘is it loud enough for you?’ Need he even ask? These are the Biffy devoted we’re talking about here. More ‘Mon the Biff!’, ‘Mon the Biffy!’ and song request shouts ensue. Large grown men appear capable of launching themselves towards the stage simply fueled by the energy onstage. Perhaps the readership of DIY is familiar with this sort of scene, but it’s definitely not a familiar sight to Washington. ‘The Captain’ ends the evening on an up note, everyone in the club singing along to the sweeping ‘oh oh ohhhs’. This gig was probably every bit as memorable to the band as it was to the punters lucky enough to witness this momentous occasion.