LIVE: Biffy Clyro / Bob Vylan @ The Forum, London

By Adam Rosario

There is a moment during Biffy Clyro’s headline set that collectively makes the crowd lose their minds; ‘Mountains’ is arguably the biggest commercial single the band have ever had, and they dropped it ninth in their set, of twenty three songs. The audacity! Thankfully, their back catalogue boasts some of the best riffs, choruses and breakdowns of the last 15 years. The Forum played host to one of Britain’s biggest and best bands for the ‘Fingers Crossed Tour’, set up so this festival headlining band could play live shows again.

Opening proceedings come in the form of Bob Vylan, the punk-rap duo who until recently were thought to be untouchable by the media due to their controversial lyrical content… Bob Vylan are contemporary and a much needed act in the times we live in – calling out racism and the police, they rattle through a nine song set, playing seven songs from their independently released EP ‘We Live Here’, bringing boundless energy to the room. ‘Pulled Pork’ which features Jason Aalon Butler on the recorded version sees them at their best, before a crushing ‘We Live Here’ ends the set on a high. With thought provoking songs delivered with zero fear, Bob Vylan are a duo to be watched.

Tonight, though, belongs to one band and one band only. The pandemic has seen Biffy rescheduling tours a number of times, eventually cancelling their arena tour in support of last years superb ‘A Celebration of Endings’. After a string of bad luck, this current tour dubbed ‘The Fingers Crossed Tour’ was announced in the hope that booking smaller rooms would allow them to actually play, before rescheduling one final time.

Initially intended to support ‘A Celebration of Endings’, there was a last minute change in plan as Biffy have been busy and released another record, ‘The Myth of the Happily Ever After’. Thirteen songs from these two records make up the set list tonight. Biffy stride on stage, wearing suits with no shirts, looking all business as ‘DumDum’ opens the set with an atmospheric and cinematic tone. ‘A Hunger in Your Haunt’, the lead single for the latest record picks up the pace and is an early contender for song of the night. Biffy have become very astute in dressing up pop choruses in big rock songs and in a perfect world, Radio 1 would be playing these songs all day every day. ‘Tiny Indoor Fireworks’ is the best Foo Fighters song, not written by the Foo Fighters, and maintains the pace before the first truly magical moment of the night happens.

It’s not often that the adjective ‘Biblical’ really lives up to the meaning, but the singalong for ‘Biblical’ easily lives up to its name and it’s deafening inside The Forum. ‘North of No South’ follows all riffs and angles before segueing into fan favourite ‘That Golden Rule’ which incites pits and head-banging aplenty. Considering the intimate size of the venue, the light display is of very high quality, bathing the band in red during the breakdown, flashing in time with the riff and drum hits. ‘Instant History’ was seen as a slight misstep when it was released due to the radio friendly sheen it has on record but in a live environment, the guitars are higher in the mix, bringing a heavier feel to proceedings. When the opening piano line for ‘Mountains’ delicately hits the speaker, the Forum explodes into pandemonium and it’s in this moment that you realise Biffy Clyro are now in a position to play what they want, when they want during their sets.

‘Unknown Male 01’ is the perfect blend of Biffy, and nails the ‘quiet into loud’ song structure with ease, ending with a crushing breakdown in a similar guitar tone to the late Black Peaks. ‘Machines’ provides a poignant moment for the crowd, with frontman Simon Neil playing acoustically with only drummer Ben Johnston on stage for light percussion. While primarily they are a rock band, Neil has proven he can write very delicate ballads which resonate with the crowd, perfectly demonstrated with ‘Space’ later in the set. ‘Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep’ may be the most out there song title of all time, solidified as the band repeat the title over and over before the guitars kick in. Biffy have written another all-time classic for their setlist with this song, and it’s bound to go down well with people who know nothing of Biffy, demonstrating their quirks and talent at the same time.

The main set closes with what is the strongest three song run of the night. Old classic ‘Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies’ is still monstrous and the timing of the band is second to none and as always, it’s a pleasure to see them pull off this song perfectly. ‘Bubbles’ follows with one of the greatest teases in modern music, the build-up for the breakdown seeing the band false start before unleashing an incredible guitar solo. ‘Many of Horror’ closes the main set with aplomb, the crowd singing every word back to the band before a two song encore of ‘Black Chandelier’ and ‘Cop Syrup’ closes the night, the latter highlighting the Nirvana inspiration that the band have cited as their reason to become a band. Neil does his best Kurt Cobain impression with the screams of ‘F**k everybody, woo’, shredding his vocal chords like the late great frontman.

Biffy Clyro are without doubt a rare band in the world today – one that can turn up any venue, play any sized stage and be the band of the night. When they’re on top form as they are tonight, no one can touch them. 2022 sees them head back to Download’s headliner status which feels like unfinished business for them after previously being met with abuse for ‘not being metal’ but if anyone can turn Download from a straight ahead metal festival into the celebration of rock, alternative and metal that it should be, it’s Biffy. In Simon Neil, they possess one of the best song writers in modern history, and show absolutely no fear with anything they put their name to. This is a band who should be celebrated by everyone.