A rare Biffy Clyro gig where the crowd had to keep phones silent and the band kept their tops on, this was a spellbinding performance from the Kilmarnock rock trio, emphasising the melodic beauty behind even some of their most aggressive tunes.
Music review: Biffy Clyro Unplugged, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****
Although last year’s MTV Unplugged album was an intriguing tangent for a band inspired by Nirvana, unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, this live tour of that, and several other songs, more than justifies the decision to soften and strip back their sound, showcasing an outfit who’ve evolved into a ballsy stadium act while never taking themselves too seriously.
Retaining the energy and essence of Simon Neil’s songwriting, tracks like the balladeering Black Chandelier and dramatic opener The Captain, much quietened from its original incarnation, seemed markedly different, though the likes of the tender, haunting Machines always felt destined for a night like this. Decked out in woodland trappings and
a centrepiece tree overhanging Ben Johnston’s drum kit, the stage seemed set for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream rather than a rock gig.
Without its familiar pounding rhythm, Biblical remained apocalyptic and epic, the first of many sing-alongs and two standing ovations that culminated with the brazen pop of Bubbles, as crowd-pleasing a track as you could hope to crown a show with.
With Neil on harmonica, the jaunty Drop It proved short and sweet, while Folding Stars featured Ben Johnston on xylophone, surely one of the unlikeliest instruments to feature in a rock star’s armoury. However, he and his brother James’ harmonies on the venerable Justboy were equally striking, the song’s raw aggression muted.
In a touching and well- received moment, Neil dedicated Opposite to the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit.
And the band offered a glimpse of what’s coming next for them with the soul-baring Adored, with Neil backed only by piano, plucked from the group’s forthcoming, semi-improvised film collaboration with indie director Jamie Adams. Measured rock grandstanding has become second nature to Biffy Clyro and they closed out a rapturously welcomed encore with the inevitability of Many of Horror, still understated and yet glorious.- JAY RICHARDSON