Concise, expansive, beautiful and devastating. Matt Eland finds Mogwai, as ever, in breathtaking form.
Mogwai couldn’t have failed.
Manchester Academy was rammed and not, as you might expect, solely by men with beards.
Their set was as diverse as the crowd and the record they are promoting – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will – and from the angular drive of San Pedro and the flaming Viking longboat Mogwai Fears Satan to the imperious layering of Rano Pano and building drone of I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead, the ‘gwai barely put a foot wrong; notable omissions Batcat and Like Herod are barely missed.
Death Rays sits alongside Hunted By A Freak as one of the most concise, beautiful pieces they’ve ever done, and the dynamics of I’m Lionel Richie work better with the live explosion of noise than on record.
They end with My Father My King, the seething flipside to their ambient nature documentary front.
They command the stage, Stuart Braithwaite conducting through his black telecaster and Dominic (Demonic?) Aitchison‘s bass cutting through as it did on the earlier records when he led the young team.
The ease with which they perform and handle the dynamics is a testament to their longevity, especially in the middle of an intimidating run of shows.
On the other side of the coin are the Twilight Sad and they’re no less compelling for it.
Frontman James Graham can’t look at the audience while he’s singing, but between vocal parts he’s more than happy to stare the crowd out.
At one point he whispers something to the keyboardist that leaves the latter angrily shaking his head for half a song.
But close your eyes and the expanse of sound has the breath of the headliners, while Graham’s thick Scottish rasp adds a different kind of depth.
Mark Devine‘s drumming propels them along with an admirable sense of purpose to set them apart from the shoegaze set.
With a little more Caledonian self assurance, they might just make it through to the third album without imploding.
Mogwai: Mexican Grand Prix
Here’s a treat, download Mogwai live in session at the Beeb from earlier this year.