After eights, after eights, after eights. What’s in a name? Is it wanton destruction of third world mothering, Nestlé? Or is it turning up to find the show’s started early? Which is worse? Well, the third world thing is. Obviously. But I was still a bit miffed to turn up ON FLIPPING TIME to find Errors half way through Salut France aka MY FLIPPING FAVOURITE Errors song. iTunes was ready and that’s what counts, apparently.
After nonchalantly brushing aside my at first incandescent rage, I managed to realise that this was the best I’d ever heard the Scottish 4-piece sound by some margin. The sound was impeccable: precise yet powerful – exactly what a band like this needs to thrive. Each time I see them live they get better, and each time
it is a joy to behold. This time they played songs old and new, thrilling some (me) and bemusing others with heavily reworked versions of some of their older works – most notably Mr Milk from their first EP. The beats were loud and emphatic, with a mixture of ear-bleeding pink noise from their wealth of keyboards, and melodic guitar all punctuated by James Hamilton’s insistent kick drum. I can only presume he is angry at something because he was really, really kicking the chevrons out of that thing. Calm down Jim, it’s ok – you were great.
Honestly. This is my serious face.
After Errors left the stage my friend and I got talking to some “young people” in front of us. Normally this isn’t the sort of thing we would indulge in, but we’d had some lager and were feeling fruity, so thought “what the hell!”. It turned out that these people had never even heard of Mogwai. This wasn’t a great opening to our yet-to-blossom friendship. Much like the British Navy in the Napoleonic wars it seems like they will bundle literally any willing saps into the iTunes festival, even if they have no idea what they are getting themselves in for. We tried to assuage their fears via the medium of such phrases as “this is probably going to hurt” and “the builds are likely to be brutally physical”, but it didn’t seem to help.
Next, the room went black and we were greeted with something that every musician fears: a tangible, unmoveable deadline. 60…59…58… Apparently Apple waits for no man – not even the headline act at the Roundhouse. 40…39…38… As the countdown continued in white letters on the black screen, my friend pointed out to me that even Apollo 11 only got a 10 count. By 30 seconds in I was demonstrating a very 2011 lack of patience and practically chewing my knuckles off. Thankfully, though, it was to be worth the theatrics.
Mogwai took to the stage in front of an intimidatingly large wall of amplifiers. As Stuart Braithwaite opened the guitar on “white noise” it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a quiet night. They were joined for this first track (and once more later on) by a violinist who completed a typically complex mix of muscular guitar work and delicate melodies. As we stood entranced by the hypnotic visuals and intricate inter-weaving instruments, the night melted away.
The set pounded between shimmering new material from Hardcore will never die… and tracks over a decade old, each played with a freshness and confidence of a band who are entirely comfortable with each other, and yet still excited with what they are doing. Much like many of their songs, as the night progressed the volume almost imperceptibly increased until you found yourself
totally immersed in a beautifully crippling vortex of tonal noise. After the third guitar came into recent single Rano Pano I remember wondering how this, supposedly quieter part of the song, could actually build into anything louder – but they managed it effortlessly. My ears won’t thank them, but when do I ever listen to what my ears have to say?
Unfortunately, the iTunes policy of random crowd selection meant that as the night and volume progressed, the crowd thinned. Our young friends, had managed to stick it out until the end of Mexican Grand Prix – the last song of the main set – but made a sharp exit soon after, and they weren’t alone. But this wasn’t enough to dampen the muso spirits of many of the loyal Mogwai faithful, and an encore of near-deafening classics ended finally with Glasgow Mega Snake much to my wincing delight. After pretty much two decades, this is a band that are still creating music that is relevant and genre defining. Not many other bands can say that.
Apart from U2, obviously. SAFETY WINK