It’s Saturday 20th March, and it’s a cold, wet evening. The destination is Exeter University’s Great Hall. As Biffy Clyro emerge and take their places on the elevated stage, an audience divided by age, but unified by anticipation greets them. For the duration of their set, Biffy Clyro will thrill and captivate an expectant audience, already pulsating with adrenaline as they near the summit of Hundred Reasons.
Biffy Clyro quickly established themselves, aided by the popularity of their second song of the evening, 57. From this early, pivotal point it was clear that they had not come to Exeter as just another support band, they had come to take the roof off the Great Hall. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
There certainly was no holding back as Biffy Clyro unleashed layer upon layer of sonic colossus. The huge, complex sound they emitted belied their three-piece size, a commendable feat, but something three very tight, technically brilliant musicians took in their stride.
Arguably the highlight of the set, however, came as they launched into a heart-wrenching, gut-churning, foot-stomping rendition of popular debut album track, Joy. Discovery. Invention. As the song drew to its close, and all sound receded in subservience to a few gentle guitar strums, frontman Simon Neil turned his mic to the crowd, who had already been singing along with football fan volume, but church choir skill, to complete the refrain that would conclude the song. As the crowd proudly complied, Neil seemed genuinely touched, and said simply, “Thank you. That was beautiful.” He was right.
The past year has been significant for Biffy Clyro, growing radically in popularity, and if any sceptics entered the Great Hall unconvinced of how deserved they are of recogniton, they left with the antithesis of these feelings. Speaking to a fan after the gig of the aforementioned Joy. Discovery.Invention she said, “It was a perfect moment.” Enough said.
And so we approach Hundred Reasons. During a tantalising break, the mini-moshers try and look older than their height suggests, and slick back their gelled hair, whilst the older gig-goers break into a feverish excitement with child-like grins. And then, before you can say Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge, the mighty H*R have donned the stage and the opening riff to If I Could is hanging in the air, a call to arms for the entire Great Hall to start a communal mosh-pit that illuminates the faces of fans and band alike.
Their equipment is draped with large black material, with proverbial statements in large white text such as “Ignorance Is Strength” and “Warmakers Are Peacekeepers”, the assumption being that they bare some relation to the title of their second album, Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge.
Old classics were played with brilliance such as Silver, Remmus, Falter, Oratorio, and I’ll Find You, prompting a crazed, frenzied response from the crowd. However, notably, the new songs came through just as strong as the old, with just as big a crowd response. Hundred Reasons relentlessly coped with complex shifts in time signature as if it were a walk in the park. Last year’s already stunning live performance has got even better.
As the circle pits got larger, so more pre-pubescent rocksters forfeited their place in the pit for a safer haunt, like, bed with a glass of milk, but fair play to them for trying bless their hearts, at least they have one up on their friends who are buying Britney Spears and Kylie for thrills.
H*R’s encore (“What a surprise, an encore,” says frontman Colin Doran) is brilliant, concluding with What You Get, with an intro sounding like My Iron Lung by Radiohead and prompting the same effect in the crowd, arguably the strongest song of the entire evening.
And so a wonderful night is over, a night where two fantastic bands have bonded a crowd of maniacs. Homage must be paid to the sound system of the Great Hall, always clear, always crisp, and always overpowering, rib-shaking stuff. As sweaty moshers spill out into the adjacent car park, floods of reminiscent smiles eclipse the raindrops as for the first time in two hours, friends can actually hear each other. Hundred Reasons, one of the greatest live rock bands around, Biffy Clyro, the perfect partner. Off to KFC…