Question: what’s the quickest way to discombobulate a group of chin strokers intent on immersing themselves in a swathe of expansive post-rock? If you’re Stuart Braithwaite & co, you’ll throw a raucous, breakneck goth/metal band onto your bill for good measure. It could well be that fellow Scots Desalvo are on hand for simply warming up the speakers, for later on this evening they will indeed go all the way up to 11.
Mogwai have long been an outfit who can impressively harness their not-inconsiderable power and evoke an almost physical reaction to the sound they create. With the release of their sixth studio album ‘The Hawk Is Howling’, it’s a divine art they’ve seemingly been able to fine-tune even more soundly. Delivering a heady stew of cloudy slowcore, ominous guitar rock and heart-stopping, furious riffery, Mogwai seem to have lulled tonight’s crowd into a sort of hypnotic stupor (everyone up front is being rather polite, at any rate). But no matter; kicking off with gorgeously menacing The Precipice, they waste no time in airing gargantuan slices of epic, sprawling gems both old and new. Hunted By A Freak and Summer are particularly delightful tonight; controlled, careful, yet slightly swooning performances that amply demonstrate just what sets Mogwai apart from their post-rock peers. Similarly, Scotland’s Shame is gloriously trancelike, while Batcat creeps to a shuddering climax. After a few moments of respite, the band’s encore track – the old faithful My Father My King – sounds for all the world, as Douglas Coupland might put it, like a very, very nice car crash that never ends.
After 14 years, it seems that Mogwai find themselves in a rather exalted position; they are one of the few bands for whom any sort of radical departure would be almost an unwelcome tragedy. Happily, it’s been a satisfyingly dependable evening, one threaded with the sort of grandiose magnificence we’ve long come to expect of this five-piece. And after its slightly surprising opening, tonight’s crowd wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photos by Thomas Lau