Mogwai + The Twilight Sad @ The Mill Digbeth, 23 November 2018


It’s always a sign of a kind of maturity when a band like Mogwai get to have their own brand of beer. Like a performance from the band themselves, the drink is understated. Like one of their tunes it’s interesting, full of flavour and has quite a bite. Even the name, Mogwai Beer Satan, shows that whilst their particular brand of post rock is serious stuff they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Mogwai have always been about three Ds. Dynamics, Discipline and Deafness; the last on the part of the listener if they are not careful. They have a kind of introspective stage presence that makes you feel that they would be doing the same things if the room was empty, rather than full as it is tonight. Their tunes are always impeccably crafted. Sometimes they are very simple, other times quite complex. That’s where the Dynamics and discipline come in. 

They will start with a simple chord progression, add more and more layers of guitars, keyboards and effects, building trough the repetition to the climax of the tune. It sounds formulaic, but it isn’t, and that’s the beauty of their performance.

Mogwai’s standing in the pantheon of Scottish bands is such that even an outfit of the pedigree of The Twilight Sad still regard them with no little reverence. Singer James Graham wasted no time in letting us know that, even though his own band’s star is still on the rise and in terms of approach and songs still evolving and maturing.

Every time I review The Twilight Sad there is someone somewhere predicting doom and gloom and the demise of the legendary wall of sound that has underpinned their live sets for years. In the risk of deafness terms they could give Mogwai a run for their money any day of the week.

Yet again I’m glad to report that the doom mongers are a bit previous. Yes, some of the new tunes lean to the more electronic approach but what’s new? Their old keyboard player is in Chvrches; I think it’s easy to see the connection.

But fear not Andy MacFarlane has not been sealed in a sound proof booth. They were loud and here was plenty of distortion. The older tunes like That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy sounded the same as always to me although I did notice some of the vocals were cleaner. This was also true on the newer material  especially tunes from 2018 like VTR.

That’s no bad thing. James Graham is a special talent and his lyrics are important. Intensity and real presence are rare in front men these days and he has both in spades.  Their cover of Keep Yourself Warm was as emotional as people said it would be. No introduction mentioning Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit or anything. You just had to know.

Their short but intense set needed some effort to be followed and I’m glad to say that Mogwai more than delivered. A varied set list included an absolute gem of a Mogwai Fear Satan, the famous climax silencing the cohort of gig talkers at the back of The Mill. I know it’s a relatively new venue and perhaps people like to be seen at such things but I would have thought the line up would speak for itself. 

The final D for deafness was threatened at the end with a somewhat botched return for the encore which turned out to be an extremely loud and lengthy My Father, My King. The Mill deserve some plaudits for the sound quality. The sound was ear splitting but clean and distinct. Other venues could take note. 

Mogwai Set List

Yes! I Am a Long Way From Home


We’re Not Done (End Title)

Ithica 27ø9

I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead

Kids Will Be Skeletons


2 Rights Make 1 Wrong

Don’t Believe the Fife

Hunted by a Freak

Mogwai Fear Satan

Old Poisons


My Father, My King


Reviewer: Ian Gelling

Photographer: Stephanie Colledge 


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