Mogwai + The Twilight Sad @ HMV Institute, 24th February 2011

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An evening with Mogwai is not destined to be one filled with sharp repartee and banter from the stage. Their songs are sometimes uplifting, sometimes austere, but always intense soundscapes with endings punctuated only with the odd “thank you” here and there.

With no lyrical content it’s material that fans like to be absorbed in and concentrate on so it was a shame that a portion of the crowd thought their best response was to talk all the way through the evening. However they did have their comeuppance. For all the chattering scenesters at the bar who cacked themselves halfway through You’re Lionel Ritchie, these few words of wisdom are for you!

Mogwai can polarise a group of people in one fell swoop. Some get what they’re about from the off, and others will never understand the attraction. It maybe because they are quite difficult to pin down and as a result too easily labelled as post-rock, which is at the same time too simplistic a classification, whilst ignoring the complexity and sophistication of the music.

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Certainly the emphasis on distorted and effects-laden power chords underpins the majority of the material but over that, there is a huge melodic content. Sometimes this seems to come in spite of the effects, as in Rano Pano. What really comes over live, is the use of dynamics with tunes like How To Be A Werewolf and Killing All The Flies ebbing and flowing, and others like You’re Lionel Ritchie leaving you feeling like you’ve been hit over the head.

The Twilight Sad come with their own reputation for intensity and songs like And She Would Darken the Memory and I’ve Taken The Train Home lived up to that. Almost oblivious to the crowd at the start front man James Graham wound up the tension through a short set that included several tunes from the albums Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters, and Forget the Night Ahead as well as new songs.

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The band seemed quite nervous at first with Graham almost tentative in his approach at the start, tiptoeing around the wedges and knocking water bottles over. It had been rumoured that personnel changes would lead to a change in musical direction but there was no real evidence of that. Their style is quite distinctive and the new material whilst not exactly the same had all the hall marks of the more established songs.

A generous helping of the Aphex Twin, courtesy of the DJ on the mixing desk, filled the void between support and main act, and this in itself gave an edgy feel to proceedings as Mogwai took the the stage in virtual darkness and launched straight into White Noise.

For the most part the band remained silhouettes against the projected backdrop of moving graphics and film. With no vocal content the band had no real interaction with crowd, or for most of the gig, one another. The set list was precision itself which is why what happened during Mexican Grand Prix was surprising and actually changed the whole atmosphere of the gig.

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The tune usually starts will a quick, regular computer-generated pulse beat but this time around the laptop would not co-operate, playing at around half speed. Everything was reset and they tried again but it just wasn’t going to happen!

It was as if a spell has been broken. All the precision disappeared and Stuart Braithwaite, guitarist and de facto leader suddenly turned to the crowd and and explained the problem asking “any suggestions?”. After a quick huddle he announced that instead they were going to play their “Top 70 Hit” Batcat. Cue much hilarity and one of their best tunes.

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The obligatory encore was Hasenheide and an epic My Father, My King which ended with the band leaving Stuart alone on the stage for a final effects-laden indulgence.

Set List

White Noise
Killing All The Flies
Ithaca
Death Rays
I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
How To Be A Werewolf
I Know You Are, But What Am I?
Rano Pano
San Pedro
You’re Lionel Richie
Mogwai Fear Satan
(Mexican Grand Prix, started and aborted twice)
Batcat
———
Hasenheide
My Father, My King

Review – Ian Gelling
Photos – Steph Colledge

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