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Gig review gig reviews (Scottish)

Mogwai

So here we are in the environs of the Grand Ol’ Opry, Glasgow’s premier country music venue (forthcoming attractions include Lena “one day at a time, sweet Jesus” Martell; not sure if ITM will cover this one but give me a pass and Betty will gladly finger her, sorry, cowpoke her)

We arrive just before the support act comes on, the fearsome (female) staff/bouncers marshalling ageing Glasgow indie cognosenti into lines for the unbelievably cheap bar, although no line dancing…

Remember Remember disappoint some due to not being The Twilight Sad due to billing poster confusion (“except Edinburgh” could read several ways, but anyway…) They shuffle to the stage, a six piece twin xylophone-driven combo with some nice tunes, no singing, and three guitars. I think that only the Glasgow indie scene could permit this kind of line-up and listen to them without prejudice. And they are quite good, the building patterns, and interesting use of lead sax a couple of times, give an originality it’s a bit hard to place… so I won’t try to… Four numbers, I think the third was the best, and last one could have more potential to change key and go into something else… worth checking out as they’re playing Glasgow again soon.

Nyee-haw, as someone said, a couple of times…although I think Ol’ Opry regulars were thin on the ground.

After no particular fanfare, a bit of dry ice and house lights still half up, it’s a bit before 9pm when Mogwai come on, five guys with a Celtic scarf tied to the drumkit, the venue allegedly sold out but still feeling quite roomy – probably a low fire limit due to the usual shoot-outs, cow-rustling scams etc.

And here they are, a bit awkward on a very low stage and with just a couple of lights/strobes towards the end, playing the last of a few Scottish dates promoting the new album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, after a few bigger venues than this (Paisley Town Hall, Perth City Hall and um, Stirling Tolbooth – maybe not bigger). The room is pretty much silent as they launch into a thirteen song set, mainly culled from the new album, with a few choice back catalogue cuts, and what a back catalogue it is…

They do look a bit awkward, Stuart saying “thanks” after each song but the slightly po-faced atmosphere is only really broken around two-thirds of the way through when the “robot voice” pedal malfunctions and he has to retune it, to comic affect. The venue and the probably antiquated PA system make for a lot of gesticulation, from everyone, up a bit, down a bit, wiggling the fingers etc etc – that and the changes of guitars between pretty much every number leads to a bit of a sense of disruption, but then this is real – they need these specific things to make these specific noises, there’s no getting away from it. The set could perhaps flow a bit better, but post-rock is hard to sequence, mind.

The sound mix is pretty much perfect, considering the venue, the last few numbers quite rightly were very loud and deafened me for about two days – about average for Mogwai.

What makes this band last and last, though, is a very singular approach to make it sound the way they mean it to be. The biggest surprises for me were ‘Mexican Grand Prix’, showing an almost techno (and I know they done remixes, but not live like this) side, from the new album, and the other new songs, a progression and a development. A few songs in, ‘Autorock’ again shows the simplicity of the looping piano riff, taking us into infinity and beyond. Barry Burns, although looking the most awkward of the lot onstage, more than makes up the numbers with the invention and variety of the keyboard and computer effects – the rest of them are solid and going on again to greater things; the tour schedule this year gives you some idea of a worldwide audience only dreamt of by your average Scottish combo.

I understand from looking at recent setlists that they have been alternating old favourites, so tonight we get ‘Like Herod’ and ‘Christmas Steps’, but not ‘Hunted by a Freak’ or ‘Fear Satan’ – you just can’t fit them all in…

At the end of the main set Stuart thanks everyone and says how good this Scottish mini tour has been, and another Glasgow show in December…

They come back on to play ‘Like Herod’ and ‘How to be a Werewolf’, the old mixing with the new, as it always has been, this lot have never rested on anything.

At around 10.30 it was all over, so in summary, a lot of new material still to bed in with the audience, leaving me certainly wanting more – after a few years wondering if Mogwai could still be relevant, I know the answer (again).