Biffy Clyro at the U Street Music Hall

Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro perform at DC's U Street Music Hall. Photo: Biffy Clyro

WASHINGTON, October 21, 2013 — No one listening to Scottish band Biffy Clyro is unaware of the band being from the British Isles. So the natural inclination is to define them squarely within the confines of British rock music. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it obscures what the band is about, not to mention skewing where this group falls, musically speaking. Part of this, at least, is because Simon Neil’s strong Scottish burr is impossible not to notice while he’s singing away in full force—which generally happens at all times.

In truth, Biffy Clyro is essentially is a British band heavily influenced by ‘90s Alternative and independent rock traditions of that era, with a strong dose of metal and prog-rock thrown in as well. It’s these key influences that drive the band’s sound. This isn’t always readily detectable, however, because the band is willing to throw everything together, often, though not always, polishing its product with a finely tuned pop sensibility.

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It’s this kind of consistency, seasoned with that healthy dollop of intentional inconsistency, that has made Biffy Clyro a relatively huge phenomenon in the United Kingdom. Their 2007 album “Puzzles” went platinum, 2009’s “Only Revolutions” went double platinum, and their newest album “Opposites,” released earlier this year, has already gone gold. 

But while the Biffy Clyro trio are known as legitimate rock stars across the pond, that’s not the case in the United States where they remain relative unknowns. That’s why a place like the U Street Music Hall was able to welcome when they came to DC.

While Biffy Clyro would normally be regarded as a bit too big for a place like U Street Music Hall, the U Street space is the niche they’ve found themselves in when playing away from the UK. This doesn’t bother the band, an ensemble that would likely be just as happy playing at a house party than they would at the Verizon Center.

The band clearly boasts a dedicated following whenever they hit the States, however, although they may be an acquired taste over here. They are ultimately a big, crowd-pleasing band that turns songs that inherently garner mass appeal. Each of their songs’ energized riffs and interesting melodies result in a dynamic presence and sound that comes across, for the most part, as thoughtful hard rock.

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But it’s a hard rock sound that’s absolutely huge. Even the band’s quieter moments – which weren’t brought out very often during their set here – still resonate with the trappings of big-time hard rock. Given their indebtedness to metal and prog-rock, when Biffy Clyro add this blend to their shifting hard rock dynamics, the do end up achieving that weird combination of an indie rock ensemble that’s joined at the hip with an arena rock band.

Although meticulously organized, this is a band that seems, on the surface, to throw anything they can find up against the wall. The band’s three musicians create the impression of restlessness and constant movement.  It would be easy for them to settle down and find a musical place to drop anchor themselves. But then they’d lose a lot of the energy and fun that audiences crave when they flock to hear this band play.

And that pretty much sums up the feel of a Biffy Clyro show at a place like U Street Music Hall.  The band’s material is somewhat serious, but the band never came across that way here, twisting and weaving their way through each song as their unique sound filled the club. In other words, whether they were performing in your basement or in the Royal Albert Hall, it’s hard not to get caught up in Biffy Clyro’s total excitement no matter where they are.


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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