Mogwai at the Academy, March 2009

The great Mogwai played at the Olympia this week, and Laurence Mackin has an excellent review of that show here.

I had the reviewing duties when they played the Academy back in March 2009, and it sounds like the two gigs were remarkably similar – of course, they are one of the most consistent bands of the past 15 years, so if it ain’t broke, yada yada yada…

From The Irish Times, Tuesday, March 24th, 2009


The Academy, Dublin

The individual members of Mogwai are unremarkable figures, but when they march on and launch into the ominous opening track, guitarists Stuart Braithwaite, Barry Burns, John Cummings and bassist Dominic Aithchison collectively look like the four axemen of the apocalypse, with drummer Martin Bulloch holding the percussive reigns behind them. It’s a fitting image, because this performance confirmed that if the End of Days is to have a soundtrack, odds are these guys will write it – nobody crafts portentous soundscapes quite like Mogwai.

The Scottish five-piece are, or course, one of the most influential names in post-rock, but their longevity is down to the consistently high standard of their output for the past 12 years or so – their latest album, The Hawk Is Howling, is as excellent as we’ve come to expect. They also seem to be growing up at last. Mogwai were once famous for their ear-splittingly loud live shows, with the bass so loud you could feel your internal organs vibrate, but this performance was quieter, in terms of both decibels and audience reaction. Indeed, the orange earplugs that many in the crowd sported at the start of the show were discarded as the risk of perforated eardrums failed to materialise.

This was the first of a three-night residency at the Academy, but Mogwai started with a vaguely funereal tone for the first half hour or so, and with the volume down to more humane levels, it appeared for a long time to be a somewhat subdued show. But the night’s performance gradually revealed itself to be mirroring their favoured song structure, with the patient build-up accumulating measured power, before the pace quickens, and a series of mini-crescendoes leads to a quiet interlude, before the final, exultant climax leaves you exhausted and exhilarated. Here, as the band left the stage after their “final” song, we had the quiet interlude, before they returned for their encore, a blistering, violent rendition of My Father My King, proving that when it comes to the art of the aural crescendo, Mogwai have few peers. Bring on the apocalypse.

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