BIFFY CLYRO, Royal Albert Hall – Evening Standard, 25 Sept 2018

After seven albums and 23 years together, Biffy Clyro have earned a nice sit down. Last year the Scottish rock trio filmed an acoustic concert for the revived MTV Unplugged series, inspired by the 1993 Nirvana appearance that was a childhood obsession. Now they have taken their chairs on the road to give more fans the chance to see them far from their noisy natural habitat, playing quietly beneath an indoor tree.

It was also a rare chance to see frontman Simon Neil, bassist James Johnston and his drummer brother Ben wearing shirts. “No noise, no nipples,” as Neil put it. He used the extra sonic space to banter with the crowd and give greater prominence to the harmonies of his bandmates. They were joined by an extra acoustic guitarist, a pianist and an occasional cellist. On Folding Stars, they stripped things back still further to just guitar, xylophone and egg shaker.

Drop It, which also featured acoustic strumming and wheezing harmonica in its original form, was a natural fit here. A piano ballad, Adored, from a new album due next year, sounded right because it was already unfamiliar. However, while watching this fiery trio trying to avoid breaking a sweat was an unusual sight, it wasn’t a real improvement. Songs that were formerly bigger, such as Black Chandelier and Different People, didn’t necessarily reveal new subtleties in this form. While Nirvana exposed the beauty behind the noise on their Unplugged recording, Biffy often sounded defanged.

The audience, while warmly enthusiastic, stayed seated until the fan favourite, Bubbles, late on. Then it became apparent that there was a great deal of energy in the room that still needed to be spent. “It’s unlikely we’ll do a tour like this ever again,” said Neil. That’s no tragedy. He and his bandmates are still better with their tops off.

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