Seeing a band that carved their way in the world through raucous live performances stripped back to just acoustic guitars is a strange experience. Even stranger still is it to see the perennially topless members of Biffy Clyro wearing shirts and not throwing themselves around the stage in a sea of sweat.
Saturday’s acoustic show is the second time Biffy have tried this type of performance, and it does still feel like it’s going through teething pains. With a gap between albums, it allowed the band to try their hand at a different kind of show before their follow-up to Ellipsis releases next year and will no doubt see a return to more conventional show.
But as soon as Simon Neil steps to the stage with brothers James and Ben Johnston to chants of ‘Mon the Biff’, it’s clear that they’re up for the challenge. This show has been played once, at London’s Roundhouse last year for MTV and as expected, some louder setlist staples are absent from the setlist.
It’s a little jarring initially to see them sit still on stage and at times, they almost appear uncomfortable to do it.
The sound in The Helix is far from perfect and it sometimes felt like an acapella sing along, with the instruments coming through so faintly that the vocals drown them out.
‘The Captain’ kicked off proceedings and was one of the songs that suffered most from the low levels of sound, but with the follow-up of ‘Biblical’ they found their feet.
The setlist is full of tracks that see the crowd in full voice and it is then that the band truly shine and look their most comfortable. ‘Folding Stars’, ‘Black Chandelier’ and old-school gem ‘Justboy’ are particular standouts while the ever emotive ‘Machines’ causes more than a few people to tear up.
What Biffy have always succeeded at is writing songs with choruses that draw you in and for the most part, this saves the show from falling short.
The encore begins with an unplugged rendition of ‘Friends and Enemies’ that just doesn’t work. While the idea is admirable, the room isn’t small enough for this kind of feat to be executed easily. Parts of the crowd lose their cue to join, and it just ends up being like a musical version of a ‘Mexican Wave’.
If you go back as far as ‘Blackened Sky’ and ‘Vertigo’ of Bliss, the radio-friendly band are almost unrecognisable now. The jagged riffs and chaotic vocals paved the way for more standard song structures and hooks and harmonies that reverberate around the room effortlessly.
Biffy have came a long way since they formed in 1995 and their ability to find new ways to showcase what they can do is impressive.