Sunday, September 24, 2006

This Post Features Strobe Lighting Effects

Do you remember that scene in "This is Spinal Tap" when Nigel explains how if they want that little bit "umph", the group can go up to 11? Well, I think Glaswegian noise terrorists Mogwai might have found 12 Friday night at the Royal Albert Hall.

"The quiet-loud/quiet-loud formula that was our trademark became pretty cliched..." according to chief noise maker Stuart Braithwaite. Well, not that I really complain about the quiet-loud formula. Mogwai still construct beautiful little concise melodies yet blown to landscape proportions by subtle arrangements and the non-too-subtle quiet-loud formula.

Mogwai and the RAH did not quite seem to be the perfect fit. I've seen at small clubs in Washington DC and Philadelphia and medium sized London venues. Though I understand they suit large festival spaces, the RAH is a horrid volume to fill. For classical concerts the acoustics continue to be horrid - flying saucers or no. Mogwai's extreme noise can fill most barns, but I worried about Friday's encounter.

And, hardly eschewing the quiet-loud formula, the setlist was packed with prime examples of the oeuvre. Kicking off was the classic of that genre, "Xmas Steps", with its rich first riff, building dynamics and sonic bursts. More examples were to come, reaching a pinnacle in the "Tracy"/"Fear Satan" segue. The former, an insubstantial whisper is never the greatest of live tracks, but setting up the whirlwind of "Satan" it is a perfect foil. "Satan" itself is but a three note song manipulated into a maelstrom. Obviously the work of the devil. The coda, on Friday, nearly blew the roof off.

Mogwai are always an enigma: slabs of aggressive Deep Purple influenced noise punctuated by mumbling vocals and the quietest electric rock around. That's the premise of another classic track "Helicon 1" followed by "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong".

To end the regular set finished off with Mogwai distilled to 4 minutes - "Glasgow Mega Snake". Here, "Mega Snake" was a bit muddy, lacking that edge found in the album track and several performances found on line.

The second encore, "We're No Here" was a further attempt to raise the roof. At that point, I think they hit 12. As punters were leaving, Mogwai returned for "Jewish Song: My Father, My King", what's become a staple encore and another chance to blast away. The lighting rig took off into space as white noise seared around the old concert hall.

All around: success. Good setlist. Sound was generally crisp. Group seemed to enjoy it. Crowd, even in the boxes, in raptures.

Second Spinal Tap moment: the Mogwai Young Team symbol done in lighting rig that was revealed halfway through the gig (see pics linked below).

Prog Rock moment: snippet of "And You and I" by Yes played between the Kid 606 set and Mogwai.

Math rock roolz! Don Caballero track in said incidental music.

:-( Missed most of the Kid606 set.

I didn't take my camera, but lots of other people did. Here's a few pictures from other punters.

To while away a few moments, here's a selection of complete live songs; quality indifferent.

- "Sinewave"

- the classic "Xmas Steps" with Luke Sutherland on violin.

- the first time I saw Mogwai was at the Black Cat Club in DC back in 1999. Stuart Braithwaite was at the front of the audience wearing an "I Love Jesus" baseball cap watching support act Ganger. "You Don't Know Jesus"

- cracking live version of "Helicon 2" (though crappy video direction)

:: Posted by pete @ 22:09