MOGWAI RETURN HOME TO TAKE ON THE 13,000 CAPACITY VENUE WHICH IS 'SSE HYDRO' IN GLASGOW
Sacred Paws power through songs from this year's SAY Award winning debut 'Strike a Match'. With a charming interplay between softened jangly guitars, shadowing the duelling vocal melodies of guitarist Rachel Aggs and drummer Eilidh Rodgers, the band have perfected their own style of sun-drenched post-punk, with the wit and wordiness of late eighties girl bands. Although quite fast-paced and light, in contrast to what is to come, it sets a good mood for the few hundred die-hard punters who have arrived early to get a good position for the night. The band are in high spirits too, smiling and bouncing around, firing through the songs with minimal banter. As they near the end of their time they consult on whether to drop a song from the set but decide not to. "We must be playing these really fast", they note. They are actually, and the result is a few people jumping about down the front with more finding space to dance at the back, while on stage Aggs' takes every short opportunity to move around, translating high energy guitar pop into kicks and nods within the small space between her microphone and amp. They wrap up the set with the album's title track, dedicating it to everyone at Rock Action, who you imagine must be half the audience judging by its reception.
A brief turnaround brings revered English rock band Ride to the stage. A generous crowd has assembled for the beginning of their set, at least four or five times greater than that present for Sacred Paws, and the audience reaction is as enthusiastic as any headliner would hope to receive. The band lead off with 'Lannoy Point' and 'Charm Assault' from this year's highly acclaimed comeback album 'Weather Diaries' before indulging the audience with a mix of old favourites from their earliest records, that blend cohesively without sounding immature, worn or dated. Ride prove an excellent and popular choice of support for Mogwai, matching their beautiful darkness through droning distorted guitars, grinding bass and dreamy vocals, whether from Mark Gardener or Andy Bell, that float and cascade over a wall of sound. Ride are natural forerunners to the timeless guitar-heavy sound that Mogwai have become renowned for. Their own brand of psychedelic fuzz pop captures the audience and before long everyone is either swaying along or rocking with fists in the air. There's no question about these veterans; Ride are as good as they ever were, if not better, and the swooning crowd responds as though they've already had their money's worth from the night.
There's a calm but expectant energy in the room - a lot of people with earplugs at the ready - and a look around the crowd reveals more and more familiar faces. It says everything about a band and their place within the industry that the whole Scottish music scene has come out to see them play their biggest hometown show. Providing an auspicious welcome to the stage then is the merriest of them all, none other than Aidan 'Santa' Moffat, fully fitted in festive attire and accompanied by sleigh bells.
A Mogwai concert is really a living art installation; the band sculpt a physical environment out of sound and the audience is at once integrated and yet completely apart from it. That environment can be dense, heavy, coarse, dark and it can be fragile, bright and spacious. Such is their command of dynamics and frequency that with only elementary rock instrumentation they re-imagine vast, orchestral landscapes. It's the very height of drama; at one moment the audience is completely mesmerised by Alex Mackay's guitar droning as delicate as a slowly drawn bow across a violin until suddenly Cat Myers' drumming erupts as if to signal the end of days. But for the lyrical 'Party In The Dark' from new album 'Every Country's Sun', barely a word is said in the one hour and forty-five minute set but for Stuart Braithwaite's regular "thank you" or "thanks very much". Words are not required. Stage lighting weaves back and forth, up and down, crafting a blanket of colours around the band. Silhouettes around the room create an eerie animation and at times the strobing becomes so intense that it forms a cloud around the stage, freezing the band in a monochrome diorama while the music overrides all other senses. The crowd goes willingly on this journey, watching from the outside until the space between simply melts away; waves of sound and light washing over every surface.
The set winds powerfully towards its close with favourites 'Mogwai Fear Satan' and 'Remurdered' before finishing with new song 'Old Poisons'. But it's only just gone 10.30pm and the crowd are howling out for more. Guitars are still ringing and the room is dark. After a minute the band return to the stage for a three song encore. A deep orange light paints the stage in a magnificent sunset throughout 'Every Country's Sun'. It's appropriately cinematic. Braithwaite delivers his final thank yous before descending into the beautiful 'Auto Rock', followed in jagged contrast by 'We're No Here'. Blinding golden light splits the stage as the last notes resonate until the very last second and fans are left basking in the glory of all that has been. Looking around at the smiling faces half-silhouetted by the brilliant glow of the Mogwai supernova, no-one can hide the warmth that penetrates their soul, that continues to burn long after the dark silence falls.