Live Review: Mogwai @ Belasco Theater, November 21, 2017

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Scottish indie post-rock stalwarts Mogwai brought their always powerful, mostly instrumental live show to a sold out Belasco Theater downtown last Tuesday. Touring in support of their latest full length release, the excellent Every Country’s Sun, their first for U.S. label Temporary Residence, the career spanning set drew heavily from that release while weaving in one track from each of their other 8 albums.

A honed live act, few bands match their sheer power or range of dynamics and can deliver as cathartic and visceral an experience. This night finds them in fine form, perhaps as tight and expressive as ever. It’s energy all the way through, no drag, with a wide variety of volume, tempos and electric and synth textures.

Mellow early track “Cody” finds Stuart Braithwaite confidently delivering a naked live vocal (he’s the only one to address the audience between songs, warmly thanking us). New LP opener “Coolverine” is lean and mean live, driven by Dominic Aitchison’s driving bass. “Party in the Dark” is as pure a melodic pop moment in their catalog. A near ten-minute “Two Rights Make One Wrong” builds to a pleasing electronics and noise freakout. It all ends with two classics in the encore–the midtempo meditation “Hunted by a Freak” featuring Barry Burns on flanged vocals, into the mandatory closer, the eponymous “Mogwai Fear Satan,” the quiet-loud-really quiet-REALLY LOUD three-guitar attack from their debut LP. Thoroughly satisfying.

Of note, Cat Myers is subbing for Martin Bulloch on drums on the current tour. You may have seen her with her own band, the Scottish duo Honeyblood. She’s a fantastic player, tight and hard hitting when need be, more than capable of driving the Mogwai live machine. Alex Mackay, on guitar and keyboards, has become a regular touring member of the band, ably manning the former spot of departed founding member John Cummings, while cutting a bit of a rock star silhouette at stage right.

It’s gratifying to see them continue to innovate, here in 2017, the 20th anniversary of their debut album. They find new gears and expand their sound, well beyond whatever “post-rock” was/is today. As a bonus, they continue to grow their popularity–Every Country’s Sun achieved their career highest U.K. chart position at #6.

There’s always been a bit of prankster’s mischief about Mogwai, from their name sourced from the movie Gremlins, to their song titles (and who could forget those infamous “Blur: are shite” T-shirts), but they’ve proven to be consummate career artists over a long haul. They’ve carved out a unique niche, built on regular touring and a steady stream of fine albums, film scores, e.p.‘s (one of the few to utilize the e.p. format perfectly). Few acts are as reliable for a solid new effort each time out. As a result they’ve earned a dedicated fanbase that will continue to turn up to the gigs (they’re even hitting Wyoming on this tour) and keep them in respectable size fonts on festival bills as long as they want to do it. Hopefully, much, much longer.

Mogwai |

Temporary Residence | <em>Every Country’s Sun

Belasco Theater | Concert Calendar