Mogwai were scheduled to ship up for a trio of UK concerts later this week, on what should have been the great live return of 2021. But as early as September last year, they became another casualty in the COVID tour calendar. Now, the chances of any gigs going ahead in 2021 look about as likely as Donald Trump getting his just desserts.
Other than a few bright words of hope from festival bosses and the odd trial gig, live shows are unlikely to return until at least 2022, if the experts are to be believed. Instead we continue to make do with the next best thing: live concerts online.
The prospect of gigs going online were bleak during those awful early days of the pandemic, particularly when Chris Martin awkwardly live streamed an impromptu performance from his home and Bono released that woeful song for those quarantining in Italy. Thankfully the concept has evolved somewhat since then, and while it’s still not the same as being at an actual concert, a handful of artists – Foo Fighters, Future Islands, Liam Gallagher, Dua Lipa and IDLES – have managed to pull it off.
As an alternative to their axed UK tour, tonight Mogwai have taken to the Glasgow Tramway to showcase their upcoming 10th studio album ‘As The Love Continues’, which will be released this Friday (February 19).
Projected through a fisheye lens intercut with close up shots of the band, tonight’s 70 minute spectacle often feels stunningly intimate. As the Scottish post-rockers open with the cinematic ‘To The Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth’, the camera zooms in on each member of the band as they perform their individual song part, creating an air of intimacy you wouldn’t normally get at a real gig unless you were right down the front. And even then you’d never get this close.
Unlike a proper concert, the show also cuts straight to each track, removing any interstage banter or respite between songs. But then Mogwai don’t really do small talk anyway. Instead, they let the music do all the work which they do exceptionally tonight, offering fans a full first taster of their new record.
Poignant recent single ‘Ritchie Sacramento’, inspired by a story detailing late Silver Jews frontman Dave Bergman throwing a shovel at a sports car, is even more powerful live, as frontman Stuart Braithwaite’s spine tingling vocals give way to raging feedback and flashing strobe lights. Elsewhere, ‘Drive The Nail”s crashing guitars and thudding drum beat are also more hypnotic here than on the album.
On record, the bleepy ‘Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever’ sounds like a squalling robot singing in an alien language over distorted feedback. It’s not until you experience it live, you realise that robot is actually Braithwaite singing unrecognisable words through an impressive Daft Punk style vocoder. The superb ‘Supposedly, We Were Nightmares’ is outstanding, too, as the Mogwai frontman’s catchy guitar hook combines brilliantly with shimmering electro effects. ‘Ceiling Granny’ meanwhile is one of the record’s more uplifting rock numbers.
The post-rockers tag on two old songs at the end of their album set, including the bludgeoning 11 minute 1997 behemoth ‘Like Herod’, which closes the show in a brutal wall of white noise. But it’s the new material that makes its mark in Glasgow tonight.
If you’ve seen Mogwai live before, this show is obviously no comparison. But it’s the next best thing for now – and we’re unlikely to see the five-piece perform this intimately once the pandemic ends.