Mogwai - Royal Festival Hall, London
As guitarist and sometime vocalist Stuart Braithwaite mused, it seems astonishing that Mogwai, a band of noisy young Glaswegians, could have found themselves being transported from their first London gig (supporting criminally unknown Urusei Yatsura) many years ago, to such a famous venue. And, not only that, but selling it out for it for two consecutive nights.
But with their rather fine eighth album, Rave Tapes in the shops and doing brisk business, here they were at the prestigious Royal Festival Hall, with the only question being whether the auspicious surroundings would see them tone down the volume and ferocity that has become their stock in trade. Opener ‘Deesh’ soon put paid to that notion as the brooding, synth-heavy opening expanded to fill the hall with a wall of beautiful noise.
The blissful ‘Friend of The Night’ followed and set the tone for an evening of almost entirely instrumental brilliance, that moved between quiet and loud with effortless ease and had the audience (well, most of them) in rapt attention throughout. That said, there were a few less hardy souls who - perhaps not knowing what a full on experience a Mogwai gig could be - left far too early - with one couple heading for the door after a mere 15 minutes, although it was during a particularly ferocious ‘Rano Pano’.
As the night progressed, with song after song of jaw dropping musicality and volume, even the most seasoned fan would have found It had to fault a setlist that, although unsurprisingly heavy on songs from their most recent albums, still found room for old classics such as the beautifully brittle ‘New Paths To Helicon: Part 2’ and the seldom heard ‘Small Children In the Background’. They did, however, save the very best for last as new album standout, the sinister ‘Remurdered’, forcefully grabbed the attention and wouldn't let go until the the final strains of rattlingly raucous main set closer ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ had faded away.
The aforementioned ‘Small Children…’ opened up the encore but was eclipsed by a simply astonishing ‘Christmas Steps’, during which you could have heard a pin drop as the song built layer upon layer for ten breathtaking minutes. Not content, they launched a full out visual and aural assault with a brutal ‘Batcat’ that left all those able to withstand the punishing sensory attack with huge grins on their faces as they filed out in to the cold London night.
Mean, moody and menacingly magnificent, Mogwai are as fine a live act that you could possibly wish to see.