Mogwai

support Pye Corner Audio
author LF date 25/03/14 venue DR Koncerthuset, Koncertsalen, Copenhagen, DEN

Two times in my life have I had a serious encounter with Mogwai, the first being in 2007 when I first began listening intently to their "Mr. Beast" album, and the other being earlier this year as they reappeared on my radar with the release of "Rave Tapes". I never found the time to listen through their other releases, but nonetheless I was convinced they would be a cool band to hear live with their powerful post-rock. This marks only the second time I've been at a show, where you're supposed to sit down the entire time, and I was a bit worried that it might feel awkward. Entering the venue was an adventure in itself, as me and my fellow critic from Revolution Music first encountered the trippiest escalators I have ever seen, with futuristic wavy blue lights in every step, and then entered the similarly futuristic Koncertsalen with its asymmetrically placed balconies and terraces, setting a somewhat psychedelic stage for what would turn out to be an intense and dreamy evening in the company of an amazing headliner. But before we get to that, a few words on the support.

All pictures by Phillip Hansen

Pye Corner Audio

As the lights dim and flood the stage in dark blue and Martin Jenkins enters to scattered applause, the green displays and red lights of Mogwai's equipment shine behind him with a neon glow, setting an even more futuristic mood. It's difficult to place this artist under any kind of rock-heading, as he is really just one guy with a small synthesizer and a forest of buttons in front of him. Still, I can see the similarities between this and the music of Mogwai, especially in the way Jenkins layers everything on top of a deep bass that slowly takes root inside your skull. As his music ebbs and flows, the entire experience has all the semblance of an underwater journey, albeit one with no particular direction. The audience seems bored and a guy in front of me even starts playing games on his smartphone. While I remain sympathetic towards Jenkins' ominous, vintage sound and the production skills that he displays, it's for certain that there will not be a place for him in the part of my heart that beats for electronic music anytime soon, as I am just never seriously hooked during any part of his forty-five minute set, but rather left floating around aimlessly with an unresolved feeling in the sea of sound he provides.

5

Mogwai

As Mogwai take the stage after a sound check, almost every chair in the venue has been filled, and most people are smiling and nodding along as the first, soft keyboard-notes of "Heard About You Last Night" float across the dimly lit stage. During the first couple of songs, I am just quietly enjoying the incredibly loud but deliciously crisp sound and the very deliberate visual setup, with the mesmerizing backdrop of their latest album-cover and the cool use of lighting effects to underscore rhythms in the music. It amazes me that such a huge, layered sound can come out of just a handful of musicians, and even though they are not the kind of band who moves around too much or talks a whole lot in between songs, it becomes a very visual experience to see Mogwai live, as they weave their minute post-rock, each person filling his role in the greater scheme of things.

"Deesh", however, shakes me up as it rips its way through the air with its drum-intro, and I find myself thinking it will be a high point of tonight. However, strangely enough, every song after it seems to blow my mind more and more as the intensity grows, and come "Remurdered" which ends the regular set, I am completely awed by the endlessly intricate and immensely powerful music Mogwai plays for us tonight. The last song of the encore, "New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 1", which I have never heard before, starts with a really silent, delicate guitar-intro and I find myself holding my breath in awe, even when it evolves into the noisiest, most massive thing I have ever heard and still been willing to describe as music. After just about ninety minutes of this kind of tour de force, I still feel like the set is somehow cut short just when it hits the highest of highs, and I almost can't bring myself to leave because I wish they would just play two pieces more to properly close the set.

While these are pretty big words about a mostly instrumental band coming from me, I still feel like the entire show would have felt more rounded if the musicians didn't seem so distant and intent on doing their own thing for the duration of the evening. A venue like Koncertsalen certainly is a perfect setting for music as skillfully composed as this but the show did come off as a bit rehearsed, especially with the extremely limited crowd-interaction from vocalist and guitarist Stuart Braithwaite. But then again, it is also sort of the point with this extremely controlled kind of explosive music that Mogwai are masters at making and it doesn't seem to annoy anyone in the audience, although I overhear comments like "It didn't really feel like a rock show, did it?" afterwards. The ambition of post-rock-bands playing live like this always seems to me to be a dedicated attempt at letting the music speak for itself in all its complexity, and while it certainly did that and I'm sure to check out some of the band's older records now, just a little more connection from the musicians would really have done it.

Setlist:

  • 1. Heard About You Last Night
  • 2. I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead
  • 3. Blues Hour
  • 4. Friend of the Night
  • 5. Deesh
  • 6. The Lord is Out of Control
  • 7. Rano Pano
  • 8. How to Be a Werewolf
  • 9. Auto Rock
  • 10. Remurdered

- Encore

  • 11. Take Me Somewhere Nice
  • 12. New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 1

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