By Kane Power (@ElHeavio)
24.6.15, The Roundhouse, London
North London courts were overwhelmed last Thursday as thousands of people filed lawsuits against promoters All Tomorrow’s Parties, after being left partially deafened from a Mogwai concert. Local magistrates are in agreement that most of the cases have no basis, as anyone who still underestimated the Scottish post-rock giants after 20 years on the scene deserves to feel the full brunt of their noise.
Mogwai graced The Roundhouse on Wednesday night to celebrate their 20th anniversary, performing a lulling and intimate set in the outset, building into awesome tumult over nearly 90 minutes. The Glaswegians rose to the occasion, spurred on by an adoring crowd, and were hugely impressive from the first note, displaying a wealth of experience and class befitting their two decades as a band.
For me, Mogwai existed on the periphery of my music tastes for many years. Their music never affected me in any discernible way until the most recent album ‘Rave Tapes’ received more playtime at my house, due to the tastes of my wife. I took a subtle interest, agreed to go along to this show and by what might have been the third song, Mogwai had won a new fan. I left with my ears ringing, vowing never to judge by their last release again, especially when they have seven other albums in their back catalogue.
What Mogwai do so well is bring the audience into their world. Close your eyes at a Mogwai show and you’ll never leave. It’s total immersion; guitars like a soft lullaby, a soothing repetition, intertwining and overlapping melodies pulling you deeper and deeper, light percussion slowly forming something tangible, and when you are utterly, helplessly at their mercy; a total, awe-inspiringly loud wall of sound.
In moments, Mogwai release you from their spell and offer a different perspective. You can’t help but be captured by the raw human beauty on display, such is the intimacy of their performance. Their accomplished musical expression highlights the contrast between the sound and aesthetic of the individuals, encouraging the audience to absorb every nuance. Combined with expertly designed lighting and a fantastic sound engineer, the elements making up each song become something each person can connect to; keys like an old friend, bass like a broken heart.
Mogwai is an actual live experience and I’m so glad that there are still bands able to share their art with such a large audience. They are the antithesis of watered-down, for-the-masses music production. There was a notable lack of phones, cameras and iPads among the crowd; such is the conviction of Mogwai’s presence. Occasionally you would see a screen light up for a quick picture, only to disappear, the owner seemingly more interested in absorbing the lush light display than capturing every moment for social media.
The night reached crescendo with an enormous behemoth of a closer ‘We’re No Here’ (leaving my career as an audio engineer in tatters), before a very welcome encore of ‘Tracy’ and ‘My Father, My King’. I had to look up the name of those songs as I was hearing them for the first time, which is quite exciting really, I’ve got 20 years of music to catch up on!