When I told someone about my evening plans, they asked me “oh, what Mogwai songs would I know?” I couldn’t think of a single one. In their 20-year career, they’ve never had a song on mainstream radio, never had a song on a TV commercial or blockbuster movie soundtrack (unless you count 2006’s Miami Vice as a “blockbuster”…). And yet, their shows are ALWAYS packed. Last time I saw them at Metropolis: packed. Last January at Théatre St. Denis: packed. Tonight at Théatre Corona is no different; there’s barely a free seat on the balcony, and the floor is heaving too. We keep coming back, because Mogwai never disappoint.
After Stuart Braithwaite addresses us with a simple “we’re Mogwai from Scotland, it’s good to be back in Montreal,” it moody slow-burner Hunted By A Freak that kicks off proceedings, with vocoder-distorted vocals adding to the eeriness. The slow burn continues into 20 Size, before erupting into life in a blaze of beams crisis-crossing the smoky stage to spectacular effect. The instrumental post-rock template is cast aside on new song Party In The Dark and the twinkly Cody as Stuart sings actual audible vocals during a good chunk of each, the latter sounding almost angelic.
Instrumental service is swiftly resumed straight after, though, on Coolverine, the spectacular opener on new record Every Country’s Sun, as twin keys boom around the room creating the kind of atmosphere you could never get on record, as good as those records are. The reason why the bands you love MUST be seen live, plain and simple. The song ends in a wave of distorted guitar, as does Rano Pano which comes next, the closest thing to a “stomper” as you will get from Mogwai.
After the stirring Crossing The Road Material, Ithica 27-9 starts in a fairly mellow de-tuned guitar strum, before detonating into a stampede of shredding guitars and huge bright strobes up high on the stage. Don’t Believe The Fife is so distorted in its 80s electronica effects it sounds like it could have been lifted straight from the Blade Runner soundtrack. This too erupts into fizzing guitars, and the moody drum machine is replaced by crashing drums to close out the song spectacularly.
The vocoder comes back out on 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong, as strobes start to flash in time with the beats in ever-increasing frequency, and after thanking the crowd once more for joining them tonight, they close out the main set with the menacing Remurdered and a truly thunderous Old Poisons. After a brief pause, they return and play a 2-song encore evidently changed at the last minute. Expecting Auto Rock and We’re No Here from the set list taped to the stage, we actually get the title track to the new record, and then the epic 10-minute Mogwai Fear Satan. And what a way to end the show. Starting off slowly, spookily, quietly, the song quite literally, EXPLODES on the same note, raising a few hundred decibels, it’s seems, to the point that a good chunk of the crowd absolutely jump out of their skin in fright (myself included).
Roaring drums, thrashing guitars, and a flurry of strobes, all on the same note; it’s quite the experience. The song eventually winds back down again, and the band starts to leave the stage, one by one, until the last couple left play with their effects pedals for a little while longer, before they leave too after an earth-shattering 95-minute set. Another spectacular show from Mogwai, and surely not a disappointed soul in the house. Expect the packed-out shows to continue for the foreseeable future.
Hunted By A Freak
Party In The Dark
Rano Pano C
rossing The Road
Don’t Believe The Fife
2 Rights Make 1 Wrong
Every Country’s Sun
Mogwai Fear Satan
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Steve Gerrard