Published May 14, 2014Unlike Sonic Youth and the Grateful Dead, Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai have never been the type of band to really develop new fans. Instead, their loyal legion of LOUD-quiet-LOUD disciples simply follow along with them, accepting any new songs or soundtracks the band throw their way, even if none of them ever sound that different from the ones that came before.
Still, a nearly full-sized crowd flooded Toronto's Danforth Music Hall on Tuesday night (May 13) to see the self-proclaimed guitar army perform old favourites and tracks from their newest album, Rave Tapes.
Opening the night was Pittsburgh, PA synth wizard Majeure (real name A.E. Paterra), who took the stage shortly after doors opened at 8 p.m. to play his entrancing audio explorations. Due to some misinformation online about the acts' set times, most Mogwai fans were unable to see the bulk of his performance (including this reviewer), but those able to catch the tail end of his set got to bask in his Moog-assisted, Vangelis-esque compositions for at least a little while.
After a 20-minute break, the Glasgow quintet (evened out live by an additional touring multi-instrumentalist) slowly took the stage to modest applause. Starting out with Rave Tapes album opener "Heard About You Last Night," a trio of purple hexagons breathed to life above the stage, adding just the right amount of visual flair and intrigue to the band's classic cuts (including "Hunted by a Freak," "Take Me Somewhere Nice" and even Ten Rapid's "Ithica 27," which got one of the louder ovations of the evening.)
Coincidentally, right as a native Scotsman started screaming "play something louder" in the corner of the theatre, bandleader Stuart Braithwaite began the first riffs of string-bending scorcher "Mastercard." With secret weapon Barry Burns taking a leave behind his synthesizer setup and joining the front of the stage with an SG in tow, the band stood perfectly still as the opening chords of "Rano Pano" rang out. As the band's four guitarists stared blankly at the crowd, strumming away to their perfectly orchestrated chaos, it was hard not to see these guys as the second coming of Kraftwerk (albeit on guitars rather than synths, slightly less nerdy and more meekly dressed).
"Mexican Grand Prix" was able to get spectators swaying on their feet with its hypnotic post punk sound, but it were previous album openers "Auto Rock" and "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead," which got the crowd fully embracing their rowdier sides, as men in Mastodon shirts and those with a few beers in them pogoed in place to each crescendo.
Fully embracing the venue's superb sonics, the band's amplifiers felt nearly maxed out as the synthesizer swells of "Deesh" and "Remurdered" pulsed through the concert's patrons, but a nearly perfect version of "Batcat" proved there were still pockets of the venue left to be rattled.
Returning to the stage once more, the band played a solemn rendition of Rave Tapes' "The Lord is Out of Control" before powering through a triumphant take on Hardcore standout "How to Be a Werewolf." As he announced that the next song would be the band's last one to a chorus of groans from the audience, Braithwaite promised them it would at least be a long one, then stood back as guitarist John Cumming's digital delayed strums caught hold of one another for a rousing rendition of Young Team closer "Mogwai Fear Satan." As the band plugged away at the ten-plus minute rock epic in front of a fully enraptured crowd, attendees attempted to hold the bar staff at bay, shushing them at any slight sound while the Glaswegian group worked their way through the song's softer moments. After an eternity spent in Braithwaite's single string noodling, the whole band joined in for the track's caustic climax.
Although detractors will always deride the outfit for a supposed lack of variation, Mogwai's Danforth Music Hall set proved that, after nearly two decades and eight LPs together, the band has never sounded so dynamic.