Mogwai @ o2 Institute Birmingham, 19th February 2023
Almost two years to the day since Mogwai welcomed their first number one album with 2021s aptly named, ‘As The Love Continues’, the band surreptitiously emerge from the darkened corners of The Institute’s decayed recesses to take their place centre stage and greet a packed hall of fans eager to receive a hefty deluge of post-rock awesomeness on the most unsuspecting Sundays.
Following the briefest of hello’s, the band take up their positions, and fling themselves once more into the swirling waters of creativity, swarming amongst the rippling energies that engulf the stage for the next ninety minutes or so. With twenty-five years under their belts, Mogwai have made many a trip to these parts, with notable appearances at Capsule’s Supersonic weekender’s, where immersion into all things heroically avant-garde and alternative is wondrously unavoidable.
The band doesn’t deviate from a set opener that has been a firm favourite for much of this UK tour. ‘Boltfor’ sounds like it could have soundtracked the creation of our universe during the Big Bang. The stage is consumed by a mauve hue that is frequently pierced by a procession of bright white beams that pulsate from above and below. It’s individual parts start to murmur and slowly lock-in to each other, gradually building towards an incredibly emotive and mesmeric climactic peak, before Stuart Braithwaite’s distorted solo rounds everybody up and directs them towards the culmination of the eruptive opener.
A fleeting moment of silence is interrupted by the mildest rumblings of tinnitus and it’s onto the next song. ‘Summer’ signals its arrival with the wholly familiar bass notes being summoned by Dominic Aitchison, bringing with it a tumbling confluence of melody and a controlled brute force. ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ and its mournful piano notes make a haunting entrance to proceedings, before being swept up by recurrent pensive assemblies of tone that can’t help but draw the listener deeper inside to Mogawi’s sprawling world of spine-tingling endeavour.
Mogwai’s impressive commercial achievements of late have flouted conventions insomuch as they have still managed to garner critical acclaim with their latest material. A feat that many before them have so rarely been able to claim. ‘Ritchie Sacramento’ is a sensation and takes the emotional intensity to the limits with its ability to distill thoughts around the impact of loss to such a refined and almost childlike perspective.
Throughout the evening, singular objects gently twirl towards The Institute’s floor. At first, I genuinely thought it was strips of paint crumbling away from the ceiling, but upon inspection, they appear to be ancient paper confetti strips that have seen their colour fade away many moons ago. I imagine that they are remnants from some Sundissential new years eve event that have laid dormant in the rafters of the old hall until roused from their hiding places by the overwhelming sound. Whilst Mogwai might not be able to strip paint from the ceiling with their beautiful bombardment of sound just yet, they do have the ability to rattle the place more than most.
Review: Chris Curtis
Photographs: Marc Osborne
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