not since graham coxon selected a rottweiler-esque snarling crew of lairy metallers known as raging speedhorn as support have i witnessed an opening act as contrary as electric wizard. turgid, deafening, dully repetitive black sabbath style grind-rock does not strengthen our will to live, nor does it bode well for the arrival of mogwai.
indeed when mogwai do strut onstage, there is a notably profound shrinkage in audience size. for a much coveted, sold out gig - the final night of five -which has had fans paying upwards of seventy pounds to gain admittance to, you have to wonder if electric wizard did not send some gig-goers running for the hills. for all the moderate reviews that have been doing the rounds of mogwai’s first few nights at the compact ica, the band are still as mightily a reckoning force as they ever were.
this is the band that instilled fear and loathing for their support slot on a manic street preachers tour - the latter’s bookish goth fans bemoaned mogwai’s lack of verbosity and lyricism and heckled them harshly, else they darted to the back in terror at the deafening musical uproar. this is the band that waged a war on blur -singer stuart braithwate keen to incite a court case to prove that damon albarn and co. are officially ‘sh*te’. this is the band that are the very musical personification of defiance, obstinacy and aggravation. few bands are as motivated, persevering and anti-everything-that-is-mediocre as mogwai.
mogwai’s appeal lies in the way they can veer from elegant cadences to full-on epileptic energy and sonic violence. so, one moment you can feel goosebumps of loveliness; the next you are impassioned with the urge to smash things up. the very whiteness of their noise can be almost visible, it is so intense.
tonight’s set consists surprisingly and largely of old material. in especial, 1998’s young team album is a focus. there is but a trio of new songs in the offing. considering that mr beast -the ‘gwai’s fifth album is soon to be released, this is most odd. it’s all rather ‘greatest hits’ - despite the fact that mogwai are not noted for being chart-botherers, the old known classics garner the greatest cheers and warmest moments.
our ears are left whirring with brash tinitus; our eyeballs bruised from the chaotic light show and musical menace. there is a general shared feeling of utterly whole satisfaction; a gig every bit as good as you would want and expect it to be from a band who still stalk boundaries and stand gigantically and majestically aloof above any of their peers.
for the technical geeks out there like iain who love their stomp boxes, a few shots of the current ones in use.
any that you recognise, please email iain with which it is as names are hidden with dial setting labels.
3-5: stuart, 6: dominic, 7: barry, 8-9: john, 10: new keyboard setup
photos by ray shaw.