Mogwai @ The Olympia, Dublin – 18-06-15 – Review by Killian Laher
Hard to believe Mogwai have been around for twenty years as this is billed as their 20th anniversary tour. On hearing about my assignment, a colleague piped up “Mogwai? What is this, 1997?” If he only knew. The band have evolved from their more confrontational early days to becoming an ‘albums band’ with a rich back catalogue and even (!) some accessible moments.
Support act RM Hubbert is a real buried treasure. For those who don’t know him, he plays a sort of flamenco style acoustic guitar with occasional percussion and singing, punctuated by some downbeat tales about his life between songs. Opening with the warm notes of Hey There Mr Bone, Hubbert was in good form, cracking jokes about his marriage breakdown, chronic depression and his physique, slightly incongruous with sensitive songs such as Buckstacy (for which he gave us the ‘recipe’) and Bolt. The high point was Car Song, as he put it ‘a tale of an attempt at rekindling a spark in a relationship’ over some truly wonderful guitar work. In truth, Hubbert’s music is more suited to more intimate venues such as The Workmans Club (where he usually plays) but he certainly captured the attention of the attentive half of the audience.
Mogwai dipped into highlights from their entire career for this gig, covering everything from Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home from their debut to Teenage Exorcists from their most recent EP. The aforementioned opener provides a perfect window into the complex guitar compositions of this band, it’s a six minute piece which takes its time to unfurl before delivering a big heavy climax, then fading into the distance. The band have always had a good sense of dynamics and they delivered particularly well on older, longer material such as Killing All The Flies where keyboard player Barry Burns plugged in an additional guitar for a triple guitar onslaught. Christmas Steps was an early highlight, it’s an almost ten minute piece which builds up slowly and carefully, ramping up the tension before exploding into a full-on raging guitar assault, culminating in some almost incongruous stately violin. Special mention to bassist Dominic Aitchison, a man who makes absolutely NO unnecessary movements, when not delivering killer basslines he stands motionless, arms by his side. Stuart Braithwaite on the other hand is perpetual motion, although this consists mainly of two motions – playing fantastic guitar lines and topping up his ever decreasing glass of red wine.
Tracy, accompanied by some twinkling lighting provides one of the more chilled-out moments of the night but it’s a rare one – the almost shoegaze-y You Don’t Know Jesus gives My Bloody Valentine a run for the money in the loudness stakes. The band can mix it up, playing three of their faster 4/4 style rockers all in a row (San Pedro, George Square Thatcher Death Party, Teenage Exorcists), but these seemed a little ordinary in comparison to the longer, more complex material. Proceedings were brought well and truly back on track with the dark disco of Remurdered, and the aural Godzilla of a track that is We’re No Here. For the final encore they pushed it even further with a twenty minute version of My Father My King, another track which builds up gradually to bursts of ear-splitting noise, before falling away to start all over again, leading towards almost metal riffs. It’s a rollercoaster of a track and it finishes with six or seven minutes of pure feedback. Songs for the deaf indeed.
In truth they are not much to look at but it’s more about the sound and here, they definitely delivered. Truly, this is grown up guitar music, and despite their legions of imitators, Mogwai still stand apart. Outstanding.
Yes! I Am a Long Way From Home
Killing All the Flies
Friend of the Night
You Don’t Know Jesus
George Square Thatcher Death Party
We’re No Here
How to Be a Werewolf
My Father, My King