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Page last updated at 09:14 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008
Review: Biffy Clyro and Friendly Fires live

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

Friendly Fires are in the eye of a buzz cyclone right now. Just in the past 24 hours the St Albans disco popsters have staggered off a trans-Atlantic flight into intensive band rehearsals, then over to the Live Lounge (to audaciously cover Kings Of Leon's Use Somebody) and straight to here, London's Union Chapel.

Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro
Biffy Clyro rocked Reading and Leeds as well as Download

Such a whirlwind has it been in fact that lead singer Ed Macfarlane, high on two hours sleep, has a duvet backstage and drummer Jack Savidge doesn't have any clean pants because he hasn't returned home.

They're not the only ones caught up in the speed of it all. Frank Turner is frantically broadcasting across the VIP bar that "THE" Bryan Adams just turned up to watch him play, explaining how the Summer Of '69 star had MySpaced him for guest list.

"He's drinking at the bar wearing a puffer jacket," he says.

Oh, and of course, Biffy Clyro - who're just pleased to be out of the customised countryside cow shed where they're recording the follow up to hugely successful fourth album Puzzle and playing live once again.

"Our actual practice room is a farm house. In the quiet during the recordings you can hear mooooo. The place stinks - but there's no distractions," explains drummer Ben to Newsbeat before they head on.

"We've been working hard the last couple of months getting (new) tracks ready."

Stripped-back

Tonight though - now half way through the Little Noise Sessions season - is no-frills night. There are no Killers, no Damien Rice, no Bono and the Edge drinking beer in the Church Vestry. Just three of Britain's best acts with bear-bones equipment.

As compère Matthew Horne finishes throwing sweets into the crowd Frank Turner walks on and immediately stakes his claim to be his generation's Billy Bragg with his odes to life on the road.
Ed Macfarlane from Friendly Fires
Friendly Fires have been busy with gigs at Radio 1 and abroad

Aptly enough, sat stage centre on a rickety stool, he's preaching in the shadow of Union Chapel's hulking pulpit.

Single Long Live The Queen and I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous resonate now more than ever since the Winchester troubadour is speedily picking up new fans.

Despite their iron-pressed shirts and glossy shoes, more than the other bands tonight, Friendly Fires seem naked. Sonically that is. Stripped of their session bassist and thudding synths, tracks from their self-titled debut take on an added rawness.

For example the big-beat backbone of On Board is this evening supplied through little more than foot stomps, handclaps and egg shakers. But it works. Closer (and highlight) Paris still sounds massive eddying around the dusty corners of the stained glass window which arches over them.

Biffy Clyro, of course, are veterans at this sort of thing - equally comfortable strumming battered acoustic guitars here as they are ploughing their normal serrated riffs.

Thanking the crowd

Indeed, Simon Neil's voice, minus the waves of feedback and intricate time-swaps, is crisp and emotion-soaked.

Typically he spends the set earnestly thanking the crowd and adjusting a black rosette on his chest. Musically it's a treat for the diehards. By now - embarking on album five - the Ayrshire trio possess an envious back catalogue (including a hand full of B-sides they throw in tonight).

Recent material Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies, Machines and Mountains slot next to the well-worn The Ideal Height and Do You Remember What You Came For?

Plus of course one new song God And Satan - showcasing how Biffy remain masters of ponderous, deep, affecting pop tunes. A knack they've copyrighted.

As the final chords of Scary Mary meander through Union Chapel's dusty enclaves this might not have been the most spectacular night of the Little Noise Series but undoubtedly few will better it.



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