It looks like 2018 is going to be a great year for some of the more niche bands of the 90’s. So far, we’ve had the experimental Godspeed You! Black Emperor for the second time in two years, as well as Slowdive playing their first ever Australian shows, and now, the return of post-rock legends Mogwai.
The second of two Australian shows since their inexplicable one-off appearance last year at Hobart’s Dark Mofo Festival, last night’s show at The Forum was opened up by local electronic project Rings Around Saturn, with an ambient set that was apparently put together for the night. Consisting solely of main man Rory McPike and a table with (what I assume were) an assortment of pedals and other electronic music-making… tools (yeah, I’m not exactly well-versed in the intricacies of creating ambient music). What I can say about it was that the set managed to be catchy enough to space out to, and yet quiet enough for the crowd to talk over without completely drowning it out – and considering the amount of talking going on I was a little surprised by the applause that he received after he was finished. I guess people were paying more attention than I thought. Anyway, despite all the noise, I found myself veering between listening attentively to some more intricate parts of the set and completely spacing out to it and getting lost in my own thoughts. It was an interesting experience.
Predictably, The Forum was considerably more packed after Rings Around Saturn’s set than before it. Mogwai came out to a surprisingly middling applause, which didn’t really seem to phase them, and after an incredibly brief address to the crowd from guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, the band got right into it with Hunted by a Freak. Their setlist was very well balanced, with a handful of standout tracks from last year’s Every Country’s Sun, a few from their recent back catalogue, and with the rest being largely older fan favourites. I was particularly pleased to hear Auto Rock, I’m Jim Morrision I’m Dead, Ithica 27 ϕ 9, as well as an absolutely huge performance of Mogwai Fear Satan as the encore and closing track. Stuart Braithwaite, bassist Dominic Aitchisen, and guitarist, keyboardist, and vocoder-ist, Barry Burns, were all a joy to watch in their own way – Braithwaite’s expressive body movements; Aitchisen’s beard and hilariously stern expression and head-bobbing amidst all the noise; and Burns’ concentration and constant instrument switching. Touring members Cat Myers (drums) and Scott Paterson (guitar) were great too, and fit in perfectly with the rest of the band. Mogwai had a great show behind them as well, with a great light show illuminating the already beautiful artwork of Every Country’s Sun, literally adding a lot of colour to the show and heightening the emotion already present in the music.
One thing that really struck me about Mogwai ‘s live show compared to a lot of other post-rock bands I’ve seen is the fact that they seem to have more of an emphasis on the “rock” part of their sound. Focusing less on building to a crescendo than they are using their ambience and noise to perform fairly catchy tunes – often with a defined backbeat your ear can easily latch on to, effectively guiding you through the constantly shifting chaos and occasional lulls Mogwai can so beautifully conjure up. With most songs also under the 10-minute mark, it’s a very welcome change from the slow, meandering pace of a lot of modern post-rock. This may have been part of what made the show feel a lot more fast-paced – when Mogwai stopped playing, I legitimately wanted more, and at almost 80 minutes + encore, it’s not because their set was too short.
Overall, with this show, Mogwai proved to anyone lucky enough to be present they are still one of the greatest post-rock bands around.
Photos by Christopher Poots.