Show Review: Biffy Clyro with Picture Atlantic and New Diplomat at Rickshaw Stop, 9/28/2010

by Gordon Elgart on October 2, 2010

Shirtless Muppets? Scotish rock band? You make the call!

Put a giant band in a small club in a faraway land, and you never know what you’re going to get, or who’s going to show up. I was surprised when I walked into the Rickshaw Stop to see the sort of people I wouldn’t expect at a hard rock show. In SF parlance, we call them “Marina types,” where I had thought the place to be filled with anglophiles and socially awkward rocker types. By the end of the night, all would become clear. There aren’t a lot of Biffy Clyro fans in San Francisco, and this show won’t go too far for upping that count.

We walked in as New Diplomat was starting their set, and this band sounded good. “I think there’s a new sound system in here tonight,” I commented. The singer had a bit of an over-affectation, where he was doing some sort of Liam Gallagher inspired accent, but other than that minor quibble, I liked this band a lot. [Editor’s Note: Apparently, this was not an affectation at all, but an actual accent. See the comments below.] When they finished up, they hung out at the bar with the many friends of theirs that had come out to see them.

Now, with fewer people watching, Picture Atlantic took the stage. This band is from San Jose, and had also brought plenty of friends out to see them. And I did not enjoy this set at all. I found the songs to be warmed-over Radiohead, extremely uninspired. “Is this Reckoning? No, no, not a Radiohead cover, just another reworked riff,” was one bit of internal dialog. Add to that some less-than-stellar vocals, and I was left unimpressed. When they finished, their friends stopped watching the stage, too.

So by the time Biffy Clyro started, about 100 people tops were up against the stage. There were a few curiosity-seekers, who all crept away throughout the set, and maybe about 25-35 really excited people, who sang along, jumped up and down, screamed the lyrics, truly excited to be there.

Were I able to say the same about Biffy Clyro, this would have been a tremendous show, regardless of the number of people out to see them. But the band walked out, shirtless from moment one, and proceeded to go through the motions. (Normally a band has to earn shirtless status with their fervor; Iggy Pop being the exception.)  The lead singer, Simon Neal, had long scraggly blond hair combed over his face, looking like he was trying to emulate Kurt Cobain. And he had the vocal control of a young Kurt Cobain, full of energy but all over the place, taking the tight harmonies from the band’s excellent albums and rendering them somewhat painful.

The show had its highlights: a rousing singalong for “Machines,” the aggressive Foo-Fightery stomp of “That Golden Rule,” and the closer, the single-of-the-year candidate “The Captain,” about which my friend commented, “Why can’t all their songs be that good?”

When one is used to a massive festival crowd, and only a few weeks before had opened for Muse at Wembley, I can see playing the Rickshaw Stop to be a hard show to get up for. It’s like asking someone from the San Francisco Giants to play for the San Jose Giants. Sure, they’re good, better than the competition even, but you’re not going to get their best. Hopefully they’ll bring out their best the next time around, because it’s the only way the band will be playing massive crowds here in the states, too.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica Jentz October 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

Hey Gordon, great review; my sentiments concur summing up the talent, and lack there of at Rickshaw Stop 9/28/10.

Since you mentioned liking New Diplomat I thought it might be nice to set your ‘minor quibble’ straight; in efforts to ease your mind the next time you see these blokes in a club.

The over-affectation accent of the singer you were referring to is a foreign accent. This band is swimming a rich pool of talent fueled by multi-national bloodlines.

Keep this band on your radar, I hear they are recording their first album!


Gordon Elgart October 11, 2010 at 8:51 am

Thanks Jessica for pointing out my mistake. I’ve noted it in line above.

Hopefully the band will have a website soon, and can clear this all up for everyone!


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