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MOGWAI @ Chevron Gardens gets 9/10

Mogwai @ Chevron Gardens
w/ Tobacco Rat
Friday, March 2, 2018

9/10

Post rock gigs are a strange beast. Very much an acquired taste, they tend to polarise opinion more-so than most other rock shows. On one hand, you have people who like their live rock music experience to be raucous, lively affairs and these are the folk who find the introverted, anti-performance nature of post rock music along with the sombre, studious bands to be as exciting on stage as watching paint dry.

And on the other side of the coin, you have the adventurous types who like their rock music a little different, a little edgier and riskier than the normal. They are the ones who dig the challenging, experimental and tripped out nature of post rock and who really get off on the fact that at a good, loud post rock gig, the real party is happening in your head rather than in front of you on stage.  

And because the nature of post rock is abstract and non-commercial, the majority of the acts who play that kind of music tend to function as cult concerns – alternative, indie types who make “difficult” art music and who ply their trade in bars and clubs rather than in the mainstream venues and festival stages of the world. 

Mogwai

Not so seminal Scottish post rock pioneers Mogwai who continue have no problems in getting their particular brand of “difficult” art music across to global audiences and receiving a lot of love and respect back in return. With nine studio albums, countless EPs and numerous soundtracks and compilations under their collective belts, the Glaswegian band’s commercial stock has never been higher. Make no mistake, Mogwai are a big international band now and their return for the first time in three years (and for their third Perth Festival) last Friday saw them greeted by the healthy crowd gathered at the Chevron Gardens on Elizabeth Quay, like the proper rock icons that they are.

Taking to the stage without any fuss or fanfare promptly on the stroke of 9.10pm as stipulated, the band launched into their usual opening number, the haunting vocoder lullaby Hunted By A Freak from their 2003  album Happy Songs For Happy People, paving the way for a mind blowing 90 minute set that drew heavily from their very fine, latest LP Every Country’s Sun. From the new album, Mogwai showcased five tracks –  Crossing The Road Material,  Party In The Dark, Don’t Believe The Fife, Old Poisons and Every Country’s Sun. Each song sounded so much like old favourites that they were greeted as such by the fantastic and totally-up-for-it local audience.

Mogwai

Of the new songs, Party In The Dark soared with melodic shoegaze intent, sounding very much like a cross between Ride and Slowdive. The most conventionally indie pop anthem in the band’s musical canon, guitarist and main spokesperson Stuart Braithwaite – looking fetching in a very cool black Sunn O))) t-shirt – did a great job of handling an ultra rare Mogwai lead vocal. Elsewhere, the scorching set closer Old Poisons from the new album – snarling ferociously like a feisty relation of the band’s two most popular noise jams Batcat and Glasgow Mega-Snake –  reminded everyone that Mogwai were more than capable of conjuring up a towering, nasty ass heavy rock stomper to rival the best of them, that their repertoire comprised of more than just obligatory slow, atmospheric brooders.

Constant touring for 20 years has honed Mogwai into true masters of their craft, a supremely well drilled post rock machine capable of transporting listeners deep into a compelling maelstrom of drums, bass, guitars and synth textures with a titanic wall of sound that peaks with a searing intensity. The band’s youthful touring musicians –  guitarist/ keyboardist Alex Mackay and Cat Myers from Scottish grunge pop duo Honeyblood, subbing for founder member and drummer Martin Bulloch who couldn’t make the tour due to illness –  brought plenty of youthful energy, expertise and exuberance to the table, fitting into the established Mogwai crew of Braithwaite, multi instrumentalist Barry Burns and bassist Dominic Aitchinson’s almost telepathic musical interplay with seamless ease. Myers in particular was a thrilling sight to behold as she thrashed away at her kit with raw power and precision, giving the band an extra, almost speed metal like dimension.

Mogwai

The rest of the set was comprised of live favourites pulled from across their back catalogue. I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead was suitably doom-laden and Joy Divison-esque; Rano Pano from 2011’s Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will just kept building layer upon layer of fuzzy riffs until it couldn’t take anymore more while the majestic, diehard fan pleasing one-two punch of early favourites Helicon 1 and Ithica 27 +9 had the crowd close eyed, slack jawed and completely mesmerised with the immersive beauty of their quiet / loud dynamics. 

Mogwai Fear Satan got an airing as it always seems to do whenever the band play live. It’s their signature song and it still rocks like the colossus that it is. The drop down and then explosive volume blast bit of the song was impeccably played and breathtaking to behold as per usual. For an encore, the crowd was to treated to thrilling versions of Remurdered from 2014’s Rave Tapes and a brutally metallic version of We No Here from 2006’s Mr Beast, complete with a pedal-board freakout noise crescendo which ensured that everyone left happy and with ears ringing.

Tobacco Rat

Tobacco Rat aka local electronic musician Jake Steele was on first and set the tone for the night ahead in impressive fashion. Busting out energetic moves behind his table of equipment, face hidden by a mask and clad in a baggy, matching grey tracksuit ensemble with the hood up, hip hop style, this Rat looked every inch the creepy, urban sonic terrorist, blitzing the early arrivals with a mind bending audio collage of eerie tones, industrial textures, distorted vocal samples and warped beats. Mashing up hip hop with grime, EDM and jungle, Tobacco Rat was the perfect wake up call ahead of Mogwai’s 90 minute masterclass.

Mogwai at the Chevron Gardens was the fifth time I’ve seen them perform in the forth different country. They say familiarity breeds contempt but that has yet to be the case with these Glaswegian heavyweights who remain powerhouse performers both live and on record. 20 years down the line and Mogwai are still proving their absolute worth in more ways than one. File under still essential.

ZACK YUSOF

Photos by Cam Campbell

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