Mogwai, Scottish Post-Rock pioneers, are currently on a tour of shows celebrating their 20th anniversary of being a band. As part of this tour the band came back to the Olympia Theatre in Dublin for the first time since 2011 when they came supporting their album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.
The support came from Glaswegian singer/song-writer RM Hubbert. Hubbert played a beautiful but short set, spending longer chatting with the audience than performing. Hubberts set was an odd experience, as he openly spoke about his failed marriage, family deaths and his diagnosis of chronic depression, thanking the crowd for coming down early and stating it would “get him through the week”. However the mood remained light as Hubbert mixed his stories with dark humour that could put Frankie Boyle to shame. Hubbert advised the audience about marriage (being emotionally open and cleaning you balls it seems) and where not to get your partners named tattooed on your body, all in-between gorgeous pieces of music, playing three instrumental pieces and two pieces with vocals, one an old traditional song and another he said he co-wrote with fellow Scottish musician Aidan Moffat, founder and front man of the band Arab Strap. Being familiar with Arab Straps music, I could immediately see the Moffat effect on the song, with poetic lyrics spoken over a repetitive but lovely guitar melody. This song would be his last song, and Hubbert told the audience this by letting us all know “this will be my last song, before I fuck off into the night like a fat Glaswegian Batman”.
Mogwai took to the stage at exactly nine o'clock. There was no dramatics about the entrance the band simply walked on stage together, with guitarist Stuart Braithwaite speaking into the microphone “Hello, We're Mogwai from Scotland” before the band jumped right into Yes, I am A Long Way From Home from their 1997 debut album Mogwai, Young Team. The room was filled with sound and the whole band sounded fantastic. Into the second song I could tell the set was going to be a career spanning set,with the next song being Killing All The Flies, from 2003's Happy Song's For Happy People. With member Barry Burns on the vocoder for this track, the songs hypnotic sound amazed me.
Mogwai moved on to play Friend Of The Night from 2006's Mr. Beast. Friend Of The Night begins with haunting harmonics played by guitarist John Cummings, before once again exploding into a massive ball of Post-Rock fury. The band then stepped back seven years into their career, jumping from 2006 into 1999 and playing the ten minute opus Christmas Steps from the bands seminal sophomore album, Come On Die Young, which last year was reissued in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Christmas Steps ten minutes builds and builds and sees Barry Burns stepping out from behind the synths to play guitar for the first time of the night. The three guitar combo of Braithwate, Burns and John Cummings creates an atmosphere of tension right up until the rest of the band come in and the tensions is finally released into the explosive middle section of Christmas Steps, before once again calming down and closing out with the Violin playing of touring member Luke Sutherland, who had been sitting on the stage for the duration of the song waiting for his time to play while visibly enjoying being right in the centre of the music.
Christmas Steps fed into Tracy, another track from the bands debut. As with the live version of Yes I am Long Way Home, the vocal samples from the studio versions were absent but in no way did that detract from the music. The guitars shined through in a live setting and the band showed they are just as tight of a band now as they were when they wrote Tracy, 18 years ago.
After Tracy, Mogwai played the only track of the set from 2001's Rock Action, You Don't Know Jesus. The opening riff of this song automatically changed the atmosphere from the calm and blissfulness of Tracy to once again slowly create a tense atmosphere as the audience watched in awe and waited until the song rans into course into the apocalyptic sound of wailing guitars, thundering drums and rough distorted bass guitar. It was a magic moment of the set. The band returned to Mr. Beast to play the albums opener Auto-Rock which went down well with me as it is one of my favorites, I would have preferred if the band played Glasgow Mega-Snake the track that follows Auto-Rock on the album but I suppose we can't have everything.
The next three songs were all quite fast and much rockier than the rest, playing San Pedro, George Square Thatcher Death Party and Teenage Exorcist. The former two being from 2011's Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will and the latter being from Mogwai's latest release, the EP called Music Industry 3 Fitness Industry 1, which showed Stuart Braithwaite exercise his vocal chords for the lyrics that almost hypnotically repeat throughout the whole song. At the end of this trio of songs Braithwaite told the audience he thought it was the first time Mogwai had ever played three fast songs in succession, and then joked that it would probably be the last.
The band then played the only track of the night to come from their latest full length, Rave Tapes. The song Remurdered is probably the finest mixture of dance music and moody post-rock I've ever heard, and it sounded enormous live, the dark low synth riff and drummer Martin Bullochs robotic kick drum and hi-hat beat that's played throughout pounded the ears of everyone in the room in the best way possible. Remurdered also saw Luke Sunderland take to the stage again to play a separate floor tom and snare that had been sitting on the stage the whole night.
After Remurdered, Stuart Braithwaite told the audience this would be the last song before Barry Burns began to play the haunting riff to We're No Here, yet another track from 2006's Mr. Beast. Very shortly into the song, the single riff is replaced with exploding drums and thunderous guitar chords crashing down on the audience. The band finished the song leaving all of their instruments on and creating a massive noisy drone before leaving the stage. I knew however that there was more to come as the guitar tech came out and began retuning the bands instruments.
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Sure enough, after five or so minutes passed the band returned, Braithwaite once again thanked everybody for coming to the show and thanking RM Hubbert before the band played How To Be A Werewolf, one of the best songs from 2011's Hardcore Never Die album.
After that song ended, Mogwai played a song I had not heard before. Which turned out to be the 20 minute single from 2001 called My Father, My King. Released as an accompaniment piece to the album Rock Action, I had never even known this song existed but was absolutely amazed by it. Throughout the 20 minutes of the set the song never let up once it remained a high energy pummelling mash of guitar, bass and drums and was an absolutely incredible end to the night. As the song ended and the band members left the stage, waving to the crowd as they did so, Guitarist John Cummings remained. He appeared to have snapped a string mid song and began dangling his guitar in front of the amp creating a massive wall of feedback before he seemingly lost his mind and began ripping the strings out of his guitar and using a loop pedal to build up this absolutely enormous drone. He spent a good five minutes of the stage playing with pedals before standing up and walking away with a simple wave and a clap of applause to the audience. It was a crazy but fantastic ending to the night.
Mogwai played: Yes I Am A Long Way From Home, Killing All The Flies, Friend Of The Night, Christmas Steps, Tracy, You Don't Know Jesus, Auto Rock, San Pedro, George Square Thatcher Death Party, Teenage Exorcists, Remurdered, We're No Here Encore: How To Be A Werewolf, My Father, My King