Mogwai / I Can Put My Arm Back On You Can't The Phoenix, Toronto ON June 30
Published Jul 03, 2008There is something to be said for the notion of rapport as a result of experience. Even if your band's songs mostly exceed seven minutes and require the occasional nod to signal a change of theme, there is a certain je ne sais quoi that is realised when several guitars simultaneously turn their signal to near static and the result remains a coherent piece of music. This is a result that is rarely witnessed in groups who have not achieved a level of artistic comfort with one another, but can be exemplified by a Mogwai performance.
The show was opened by the filthy and atonal punk three-piece I Can Put My Arm Back On You Can't, whose name is so long that guitarist Alex Durlak had to abbreviate it in his post-performance exhaustion. This breed of hardcore served as an unexpected addition to a Mogwai show, but their performance was filled with vigour and aggression that didn't get too stale, with some harsh and inventive riffs that excited a number of passionate fans in the audience.
Assuming their positions after what seemed like an eternity, the band ruthlessly played with the emotions of long-standing fans, swerving all over the chronological radar. They delved liberally into songs from their forthcoming release, The Hawk Is Howling, whose compositions appear not to disappoint, while the remainder of the set was dynamic in sound, yet with an amount of reluctance in their presence.
Guitarist Stuart Braithwaite kept the banter to a minimum which is no doubt the way it should be at a show of this nature, but the performance at times lacked a necessary visual component, with a little too much shoegazing, and not enough "rock action. Throughout the middle of the performance, the atmosphere took a turn for the sombre, with a collection of ambient works that returned guitarist Barry Burns to keyboard and vocoder duty, where he softly spoke robot until the audience's attention was completely lost. Suddenly all three guitarists turned on every gain pedal available and Mogwai became so loud that it ripped my face off.
The performance was not short, and the songs, which are always on the long side, are not for the faint of heart in a live setting. For the fans, however, the extended set time and varying back catalogue was a dream come true.