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As Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel played over the loudspeakers, Calling All Cars jumped on stage and started rockin’ out. The Melbourne trio ensured that everyone in the crowd understood that a brilliantly deranged spectacle was to be had at The Tivoli that evening.
The group’s entrance song may have been confusing, but their short and sweet 30-minute set was all-in and no nonsense. A near decade in the music game had clearly equipped the trio with some serious onstage skills. New single Standing In The Ocean saw frontman Haydn Ing part the sea of punters to dive in and perform the song in the depths of the brimming mosh.
This exhibition wouldn’t be the last bit of biblical imagery of the evening. One might have thought that the Messiah himself had returned to stand under the bright lights that night, judging from the awe and reverence demanded from the thousand or so gleeful followers in attendance.
Biffy Clyro‘s shaggy frontman, Simon Neil, could indeed have passed for a Jesus lookalike, save for the disparate tattoos splattered over his naked arms and torso, as well as the equally quirky floral-print trousers and white Converse covering the rest of his body.
He greeted the roaring crowd with a warm smile and a thickly accented “Hi, Brisbane!” as his similarly bare-chested bandmates — twin brothers James and Ben Johnston, who handle bass and drums respectively — joined him on stage.
Skeletal tree branches stretched out behind the trio on an enormous banner depicting the surrealist artwork of their sixth and latest LP, Opposites. Suddenly, the church organ of the album’s opening track, Different People, swelled and seeped out through the smoke and into the darkest corners of the theatre.
Back-to-back performances of That Golden Rule and The Captain were then delivered in a blur of feral screams, wailing, distorted guitars, and flying bodies. And we were only three songs in.
Biffy Clyro have certainly mastered the art of arms-wide-open, scream-your-lungs-out, anthemic rock, yet they manage to completely avoid coming off as pretentious. In a live setting, the Scottish trio deliver their songs with authenticity and utter abandon, cutting right to the core of their material and the audience.
“Come on, Bris-Vegas!” Neil urged manically, as the band launched into the fast-marching, drum-driven Who’s Got A Match? They followed up with a selection of recent singles, including the haunting and agitated Victory Over The Sun and the melodic pop rock of Biblical – the trio showed no signs of slowing down.
At the halfway mark, Neil’s solo acoustic performance of God & Satan provided fans with a breather from the onslaught of explosive rock and roll. Finally standing still, the spotlight illuminated his matted, dripping mane and glistening torso.
Throughout the evening there was a clash of Commonwealth accents, as the Tivoli crowd acted as Neil’s strident and Aussie backup choir. “That was magical, thank-you,” Neil mused with a twinkling smile after one such singalong, before launching into the spasmodic intro of Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies.
Themes of love, life and death were all shredded, dissected and celebrated during the mammoth hour-and-a-half-long set delivered by the night’s headliners. Existential concepts aside, Neil ensured the show was really about having a good time. He kept it playful with an impromptu, purring trill here and a flamboyant dip of his hips there. In today’s scene of recycled punk-jumps and fist-pumps, Biffy Clyro’s uninhibited and unapologetic performance aesthetic was extremely refreshing.
After a glass-shaking rendition of Black Chandelier and the bouncy musical odyssey of Bubbles, the venue was plunged into darkness once again, but the swarming mass would not be tamed. Cries of the fan-familiar phrase “‘Mon the Biff!” were chanted loud and proud during the pre-encore intermission.
In the mish-mash collective, which comprised fresh adults and middle-aged women and men alike, the younger of the Tivoli’s crowd erupted and crowd-surfed during the monster double finale. The bagpipe and piano-laden rock anthems Stingin’ Belle and Mountains rounded off the immense sensory assault of a performance, before a final cry from Neil: “Thank you! We are Biffy f**kin’ Clyro!”
Photo: Biffy Clyro Live In Brisbane, 2014 / Photo: Rebecca Reid