This is one of those gig reviews that I wasn't initially meant to write. However such was the magnitude of the event it would be irresponsible not to.
I'd been looking forward to seeing Mogwai since it was announced they would be part of the annual Celtic Connections event. It's hard to imagine a better way to celebrate the release of their new album Rave Tapes than by headlining at home in the prestigious Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Add to that the glorious RM Hubbert being invited to open and the evening was set to be special.
Special is exactly what it was, gathered inside the frankly posh concert hall were a range of fans, young, old, well dressed and scruffy (like myself). All sharing the anticipation equally though and gathered together for the same reason.
The choice of RM Hubbert (or "Hubby") to open proceedings was a great one, although potentially a risky one. The man himself alluded to be "shitting himself" early on, not that we noticed. In the huge concert hall his acoustic strumming and subtle dexterity could have been talked over or simply ignored. As often disrespectful crowds can do when not faced with walls of amps or volume. However such is the strength of Hubby's songs and performance the mostly full room were hanging on every note/word. Maybe his onstage banter and openness helped hush anyone thinking of chatting or texting mates etc.
RM Hubbert is a rare breed, combining humour, performance and tugging on the heart strings all in one set. Ending with a guest appearance by Aiden Moffat to perform 'Car Song' it was one of many highlights of the night. A truly memorable experience for all lucky enough to catch it.
Mogwai entered the stage (featuring an impressive rave tapes theme) to adulation. 'Heard About You Last Night' kicked things off with its hypnotic tones filling the hall. What followed was a set pulling from various chapters of their recorded output. All played very, very loud! Of course I didn't bring earplugs and my ears took a right bashing! However so entranced by the power and at times mesmerising performance I didn't care. During set closer 'Mogwai Fear Satan', for instance, the subtle build up, gave way to a deafening wall of sound which almost knocked me off my feet.
It was an evening of various emotions and moods. 'Remurdered' made me want to throw some old school acid house shapes. The minimal but infectious track should be a live favourite for years to come. 'Rano Pano', with its stomping layers of guitar was involuntary headbang inducing.
Mogwai now have a wealth of material to pull from, soundtrack work apart, nearly everything was sourced. 'I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead' was another highlight. The Rave Tapes tracks also work extremely well live. 'Deesh' and 'Master Card' were perfomed like long term live favourites.
The multi-talented Luke Sutherland made many contributions throughout the night. Taking center stage to sing on 'Mexican Grand Prix', having already provided percussion and violin. Even having to restart the song due to Barry Burns having "technical difficulties" didn't put him off or dampen the atmosphere. The hymnal like 'Lord is Out Of Control' and 'Hunted By a Freak' were perfomed as couples held each other, and inducing swaying shoegazing by us lonely types.
One song though I wasn't expecting but was secretly wishing for was 'Cody'. The track has been heavily played by myself, and has various personal meaning. I knew it would affect me if played, but not just as much as it did. While trying to sing along I broke down in tears, did I care? Absolutely not. This is what music should be, affecting, emotional, cathartic. Much like this site's recent musical therapy features, this was as therapeutic as it was brilliant.
All in all it was an evening to celebrate though, Mogwai had just had their first top ten album. It's great to see that hard work and actual ability can be recognised, rather than just manufactured rubbish churned out constantly.
Hopefully Rave Tapes continues to bring them to new ears, then Mogwai can smash them in live as usual.