When Biffy Clyro walk on stage to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” all of them already stripped to the waist (barring their touring guitarist, branded an outsider by virtue of his shirt and tie), there is something a bit cheeky in their attitude. It only takes a few minutes, however, to realize that this seasoned touring band know how to keep things light, and know how to be prepared. Indeed, throughout the show, there is so much sweat dripping off of frontman Simon Neil that it’s a wonder he doesn’t miss any notes.
The Scots trio pride themselves on being a strong live band, and their sense of pride is well earned. Four men on a large stage in a large room have a lot of space to fill with just their presence. But the audience is ready to respond to them, ready to mirror their jumping, and there are times when the crowd looks like it will spill into a mosh pit — thought it never does.
Early in the show they give, according to Neil, the live premiere of “Accident Without Emergency,” and follow it up by each grabbing a strobe light to hoist over their heads (to which those in the audience not made motion sick by strobe lights showed tremendous enthusiasm). By the time the band kicks into “Bubbles,” several men in the audience have followed the band’s lead and taken off their own shirts, one of which eventually makes its way onto the stage.
Neil gets a chance to catch his breath with the obligatory slowdown of the set, in this case him alone on stage with his acoustic guitar. While his bandmates towel off backstage, he leads the audience in a singalong of “Folding Stars.” It’s a moment that probably should be intimate, but the space, the people, and the sweaty, shirtless, tattooed man on stage make for a somewhat odd spectacle.
What Biffy Clyro do well is keep their setlist varied, spanning their entire catalogue. But there is a notable difference in how they perform their earlier, crunchier songs — the ones that have them climbing monitors and jumping off the drum riser — and their more recent, more anthemic material. And having this broad spectrum traversed in just shy of two hours does leave one wondering how a once borderline hardcore band has ended up in musically tamer territory.