Mogwai Take Control
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- ICA, London »
Is it alright to say a few choice things about Mogwai now that their five-day residency has come to a close?
Ideally, Mogwai gigs should be intense and sombre affairs, but tonight has a rather raucous end-of-term feeling about it. This is partly because of Stuart Braithwaite’s unhealthy obsession with Celebrity Big Brother and the general chattiness of the audience, a welcome diversion from the usual chin-strokery that is seemingly de rigueur for the average ICA audience.
Pleasantries aside, tonight showed that even Mogwai, at times, have feet of clay. Even though in some quarters it is common consensus that they have never quite matched on record what they can do live, their main stumbling block in fact is when they decide to sing. And this happens twice tonight - two shockingly ordinary interludes that are played in succession and are thankfully brief. The relief is palpable and even Stuart looks happy when his own singing stint is over.
After this jittery interlude, songs both old and new (and most of them old) are delivered with the usual array of subtlety and all-out bombast that is almost expected, but there is an underlying sense of going through the motions that may mean the band (plus auxiliary members, three of them tonight) have either got the Friday feeling or the surfeit of ideas on recent albums Rock Action and Happy Songs… has got them treading water when playing live. ‘Christmas Steps’ and ‘Stanley Kubrick’ confirm their ability to be able to frighten and relieve in equal measure and ‘Hunted By A Freak’ still sounds for all the world like it was written for Thom Yorke’s wedding march, but by the last mournful notes of inevitable encore ‘New Paths to Helicon’, there is a feeling of 9-5 time attitude mixed in with a ‘will this do?’ post-it note scenario.
Mogwai are still the sound that you hope is loud enough to follow you into the next life and they proved so on a few occasions tonight (once they secretly gave into audience pressure and secretly turned their amps up), but the uneasy sense that either they have reached an impasse or that their greatest days are behind them is apparent even to the most layman of fan. Here’s hoping it's the former.
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