MOGWAI London Royal Festival Hall 21 June 2018
The passing of time is almost invisible ; sometimes. It’s been twenty years since I’ve first seen this band, and its been the same every time. The venues may be different every time but the feelings are the same. I don’t feel like the core of me has changed at all in that time ; that I have become refined and more tightly precise, but that is it. I am still me, just better. And a bit older. And a bit balder.
Perhaps sometimes, it’s the venue that makes the difference. Last year, I caught the opening show of the tour with the album, unheard by anyone, debuted live at sunset in Barcelona overseen by skyscrapers. Tonight, with a slightly different lineup (Martin Bulloch is recuperating from a health matter, with live drummer Cat Myers on stage instead ; though Bulloch returns for a mini set of 4 songs as the encore, including the live return of “Kids Will Be Skeletons” after a seven year break), there’s a very different feel. Where Mogwai have worked, have achieved, is in defining the slippery ; shorn of vocals, as such, the band are always working towards to trying to bottle sunlight, with huge and often long instrumental excursions that circle human emotion nonspecifically – that is, since the band don’t have hits as such, they have fan favourites, and they don’t have songs that they must play live as a result. No need, then, to slot “West End Girls” or “Wonderwall” into the set. If anything, Mogwai are the music you need to experience live for thinking, for feeling, for exploring. It’s music where I feel connected to the people around me, rather than connecting to myself.
We’re all sat or stood there, many of us, feeling, thinking, communicating. In my mind, I am not losing myself, or connecting vicariously to emotion, but instead my head is lazily exploring the sensations the music gives me, like a soft, relaxing aural shower, a meditative, peaceful state. You know the moment where you lie next to your lover, and your heart feels different, intimate, beyond mere words? Like that. It’s the kind of music that is much better when you stand quietly next to someone and hold their hand as waves of rhythm and sound batter you like waves.
For me, the highlight of this is a fierce, gorgeous “Mogwai Fear Satan.” It’s the first song I ever saw them play live, and it is one of the finest moments of any show, by anyone, ever. The rolling rhythms, the powerful percussive hits remind me of nothing so much as the unstoppable, fierce force of nature, the song hits, and keeps hitting and I’m lost beautifully, in my own head and in this world that exists, just now, briefly, for 2 hours, with the people in this room.
The room reacts slowly : standing, sitting, airdrumming, and just… there, in whatever world this is for them. We are part of this, happening, here, now, and recordings are just a fragment, a slice. Nothing can change what this was. This happened.
Every Country’s Sun
Party In The Dark
Take Me Somewhere Nice
I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead
Don’t Believe The Fife
Mogwai Fear Satan
I Know You Are But What Am I
Kids Will Be Skeletons
My Father, My King