I’m not sure there’s ever been a more literal example of the term “warm up band” than Bob Vylan. The two piece bring to the Corn Exchange more energy than I can remember seeing in a support band in a long time – by the time the first track is in full flow, vocalist Bobby Vylan is right off of the stage and into the crowd, getting everyone jumping about during I Heard You Want Your Country Back. The lyrics seem apt given what had happened the night before; “Got the gammons on retreat, And their blood boils over when we speak,” when someone apparently needed to be removed for yelling abuse at the band. I can see why their set may be provocative to some, with the band’s quite, erm, outspoken distain for the Met Police, for example, but then this came only a few hours after I saw the Met in the news again, an officer charged with child sex offences – their anger at certain topics is justified, just listen to the lyrics and realise that the topics are meant to cause that anger but, y’know, don’t shoot the messenger, look into why they’re angry at these institutions in the first place. Leaving drummer Bobbie Vylan on stage, Bobby decided to spend the later half of the set in the crowd, at one pointing climbing up to the balcony (and getting stuck up there). One of the most entertaining support bands I’ve seen in a while – an interesting choice to support Biffy Clyro but I’m glad to have been introduced to them.
Biffy Clyro haven’t really played venues the size of the Corn Exchange in the UK for a while, the band feeling much closer together on stage than the last few times I’ve seen them. They’ve got a tonne of new material to play with on this occasion too, releasing A Celebration Of Endings during the height of the pandemic and releasing a surprise follow up, The Myth of the Happy Ending, just a week ago and there’s a real excitement around hearing some of the new tracks live. These two albums are, in my opinion, the best two records they’ve put out in a while and it’s a relief to hear how well they translate to the live stage. Opening DumDum is a more synth and delay led track which sees the live members, Mike Vennart and Richard Ingram, heading onto stage first to start building the atmosphere. By the time A Hunger In Your Haunt gets going though they’re in full guitar assault, the end section full of odd timed stabs, complete with perfectly timed flashes of light – it’s sections like this that first drew me towards the band and now, nine albums into their career, they’ve really worked out how to play on these sections live with new odd timings to stop you getting too comfortable.
Instant History is a track I wasn’t so sure about when I first heard it – there are some interesting parts in it but it never really connected with me – but live it’s now one of the most epic sounding tracks, the yell of “This is the sound that we make” sang back so loudly that the Corn Exchange felt more like an arena. It’s weird to think that the majority of people watching this track, which feels like it came out so long ago, will be hearing it and screaming back for the first time. Wolves of Winter has fast become one of my favourite live tracks, the snarling chorus sounding utterly huge. I was pleased to hear one of the weirdest tracks on the new album, Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep, live for the first time, the weird synth intro and repetitive vocal line of the intro sounded perfect and the stage lighting was just perfectly on point for the song – it’s Biffy at their weirdest and it’s good to see a hall full of people enjoying it. Likewise I have to commend them for closing the set with Cop Syrup, a track with a weird outro that works perfectly as the album closer and, seemingly, well as a set closer too, ending the set to the scream of “Fuck everybody, woo!” a line that felt almost iconic from last years album.
It’s been a while since Biffy Clyro played Cambridge, for a rough idea I remember going to a signing in Virgin Megastores that day, a shop I barely remember now, previously playing at the Junction. It’s a jump up in size from then but still a more intimate show than the o2 arena. I love the huge production value of the arena shows but being up this close with the band there’s an excellent energy to the whole thing. I also have to give some praise to Cambridge Corn Exchange themselves, for one this is the first gig I’ve been to where the vaccine/test pass was actually scanned, rather than glanced at from a distance, but also the staff I spoke to were friendly and went out of their way to be helpful.