Biffy Clyro live at the 2012 iTunes Festival

Biffy Clyro live at the  2012 iTunes Festival London Camden RoundhouseOne of this year’s major coups at the iTunes Festival was lining up Scot-rockers Biffy Clyro to play London for the first time in over a year. With the band having just announced a January 28th release date for their sixth studio album ‘Opposites’, this was a great opportunity to showcase some of their new material.

First up, the crowd were roused into good spirits by fellow Scots Frightened Rabbit. The Selkirk quintet served up a 45-minute set that varied from compelling to pedestrian. ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ got a strong reception, with lead singer Scott Hutchinson sounding in fine fettle.

Following the now customary 60-second iTunes Festival countdown, Biffy Clyro got a thunderous response when they took to the stage, with the laid-back sounds of Simon and Garfunkel providing a stark contrast to the juddering rhythms of new single ‘Stingin’ Belle’.

From here on in, the set was fairly evenly split between new material, hit singles, and obscure tracks getting their first run-out in years. Of the new tracks, the expansive stadium rock of ‘Victory Over The Sun’ was by far the most impressive, while ‘Sounds Like Balloons’ blossomed from a funky off-beat intro into a full-blown hard rock crescendo. The hits were out in force, from a joyous rendition of ‘The Captain’ to the bounce-along classic ‘Who’s Got A Match?’. The arms-in-the-air ballad ‘Many Of Horror’ split the crowd right down the middle, with the odd cry of “we love you Matt Cardle” undercutting the mood somewhat.

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

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How Placebo trumped Spotify

Let me start by apologising for the paucity of posts this month. (I could more-accurately say complete lack, but paucity is just too great a word to pass up!) Two things have been keeping me otherwise occupied, one is working full-time as an intern for the lovely people over at the Independent on their university guide, the other is doing freelance music reviewing for inthenews.co.uk

PlaceboWhen reviewing gigs I do my best to brush up on the band in question before seeing them, so in the spirit of things I decided to splash out on the new Placebo album before seeing them at the iTunes festival in Camden last night. It’s a rare event that I actually buy a CD these days, what with Spotify fulfilling most of my PC-based needs for new music, but I felt compelled to pay full lick for a CD copy of Battle For The Sun. Partly because the artwork (above) is brilliant, but partly because Placebo provided Spotify with only a tantalising ‘sampler’ of the album. Instead of the full 13 tracks, there are six on offer for Spotify listeners, and I believe this was a very smart move from the band. It gives you enough music to get a real taste for the album, such as you couldn’t get on MySpace, but it doesn’t give the entire game away and leaves you wanting more.

At the core of it all is a fantastic album, which is what all of this relies on of course. Straight from the jagged opening chords of Kitty Litter, which invoke the band’s 90s hit Pure Morning, Battle For The Sun is a consistent stunner of a record with the ambition turned up to 11. Out go the posey snyths that have cropped up on earlier Placebo records and in come the epic, sweeping string arrangements of the title track and the sassy brass of recent single For What It’s Worth (which includes a sample from the Tetris theme at 1:48, I believe). The main departure from previous records is that Brian Molko is much more open and emotional with his lyrics, and the result is enticing and surprisingly romantic. Placebo fans keen for more can read my live review of the band playing the iTunes festival at the Camden Roundhouse.

Placebo have set an interesting precedent with this Spotify sampler, and I am yet to come across another major band to do so. A quick Spotify search yields only one result for ‘Spotify sampler’. Given the ambition of Spotify, I wonder if they will crack down on bands and record labels only giving away half of their albums – if Spotify samplers become more widespread they could undermine the whole essence of the online juke box, but equally it could throw a lifeline to the ailing CD industry. So what do you think? Have Placebo played a blinder or are they Luddites who are failing to fully to embrace the free music revolution?