LIVE: Biffy Clyro perform an intimate acoustic show in Leeds

By Will Whitby

Biffy Clyro have become accustomed to be in the same word-group as “aggressive”, “big-sound”, “festival-headliners” and “sold-out-arena-shows-in-front-of-1000s-of-people.” Tonight however the tables were turned as they played an acoustic set in Leeds city centre’s Headrow House to one-hundred very lucky fans, one of their first shows since headlining the famous Edinburgh Hogmanay at New Years Eve. Either sat on lunch benches or leaning upon the café’s walls, the crowd witnessed one of Britain’s most fierce bands strip back and show off their delicate side. A treat for all involved.

Drummer Ben Johnston spoke to Punktastic before the gig, admitting their enjoyment of these types of shows. “It gets us to show the songs in their skeletal form. It’s a really different vibe to the big live rock shows. Fucking nerve racking though, it’s a lot scarier when you can see everyone’s eyes.”

Leeds Headrow House

“Hello we are The 1975,” frontman Simon Neil joked as he walked onto the tiny, barrier-less stage. “You’re all so polite,” bassist James Johnston added. Opening with ‘Only Revolutions’’s ‘The Captain’ the trio turned the arena rock crowd-pleaser into a stripped back joy. A trend that followed throughout the near hour long set which included their most famous tracks alongside new songs and rare B-sides.

“Strange all of this early evening stuff. The sun is still up, it all feels very grown up,” Neil said before moving into the first of the new tracks, ‘Medicine.’ Although the full versions of the track remained hidden away, hearing the acoustic version gave the audience a taste of what is to come. ‘Medicine’ was a tender break-up song speaking of a failed relationship. It had a very Machines-esque (a track from 2007’s ‘Puzzle’) feel to it as Simon Neil’s vocals majestically sang the chorus- “tell me why this can’t be love.”

Whistling into ‘Puzzle’ bonus track ‘Drop It’, the Scottish threesome offered a cut rarely played live. Arena favourite and lead track from 2009’s ‘Only Revolutions’, ‘Mountains’, was stripped way back to suit the incredibly intimate setting finishing with Neil joking “Go big or fuck off” as he tried to hit an electronic pedal board that wasn’t there. “Hopefully you won’t be this polite at Leeds Fest,” he laughed.

Usually shirtless during their energetic live shows the trio sat on stools looking very laid back with long hair and tattoos the only indicator of heavier trends. The talent of Ben Johnston shone through as he made a box drum, small kick bass and an egg sound comparably huge. Brother, James, was sat in front with a bass turned way down from its usual eleven alongside Simon Neil; his hair draped over an acoustic guitar.

Playing fan favourite ‘Black Chandelier’ and encouraging tender singalongs to ‘Opposite’ and ‘Machines’, the initial tense and modest crowd had come out of their silent shell with the band noting the “lovely” atmosphere. A testament to their talent in having the ability to be so aggressive and energetic on a big stage yet delicate and near beautiful during this acoustic set.

Leeds Headrow House

‘Rearrange’, the evening’s other new track, was delivered with more heartbreaking melancholy about youth and lost love.  Neil’s husky voice yet again did the chorus justice – “I would never break your heart, only rearrange the working parts.” Eager ears will have to wait until the 8th July, when the new album drops, until they can hear the full band version.

“It has been an honour to be in the room with so many lucky people,” Neil addressed the competition winners. “Maybe it will rub off on us.” Biffy moved into their final track, ‘Different People’, epitomising what they are best at – big choruses, big melodies and big hearts.

Strong smiles from both the band and the audience gleamed as Biffy exited to a rapturous standing ovation and graciously thanking everyone along the way. Tonight was a once in a lifetime show and displayed how invigorating Biffy Clyro are, both as a band turned plugged in and unplugged.

Alongside the two new tracks on display, the recently released ‘Wolves Of Winter’ and ‘Animal Style’ indicate a new turn in Biffy Clyro’s sound. More experimental then prior albums, Johnston admits “it feels like we’re writing our first album again, it’s a real slap you round the face record.”

Biffy Clyro headline Reading and Leeds festival on August Bank Holiday and tickets are still available.

WORDS: Will Whitby
PHOTOS: Danny Payne