Thursday 21 June 2018 – Mogwai @ Royal Festival Hall.
Confession time. I came late to the Mogwai party, not knowingly hearing them until the mid-2000s when instrumental post-rock started to dominate my music listening, which it still does. Even then Mogwai were not my first pick, New Zealand groups Sora Shima and Jakob, Japan’s Mono and Texans Explosions in the Sky were usually first to the turntable or CD player. Post-rock really helped get me through the endless journeys I took on my travels. Many of those hours spent in planes, trains, buses and trucks were passed listening to long, winding instrumental tracks.
I am not quite sure when this changed; when Mogwai became not just my favourite post-rock band, but my favourite band of all and any genre; sometime after arriving in the UK I guess. This will be the third time we have seen them.
When Robert Smith (singer, guitarist, songwriter and main man from The Cure, another long time favourite group) was announced as the curator of 2018’s Southbank Meltdown Festival I was excitedly looking forward to the acts he would announce to play over the course of the festival’s two weeks. He does have very good taste, but wow, what a line up, exceeded my expectations! If I was wealthy enough and could take two weeks out of work I could have gone to at least one gig each night, so many great acts were playing. However I am not wealthy, nor able to take two weeks holiday, so I restricted myself to booking two shows. Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine. It was a tense couple of hours when pre-release tickets went on sale, hovering over the refresh button on my computer; even cancelling a meeting at work just to be sure. But I did get the tickets I wanted; and My Bloody Valentine sold out almost immediately. The online queuing was well worth it.
I love the Royal Festival Hall, a fully seated venue with excellent acoustics it is perfect for Mogwai’s instrumental loud-quiet sonic assault. With loads of bars and bathrooms the venue does not seem rushed or crowded and with a long veranda overlooking the South Bank and the River Thames, getting there early for pre-show glass of wine is no chore either.
Kathryn Joseph was the support act, I have not heard her before. A two piece set of piano, drums and voice. It was OK, I warmed to her style towards the end but it was not really my cup of tea.
Mogwai came on stage exactly on time, to a loud roar from the capacity crowd. Opening the 90 minute set with the title track of their new LP ‘Every Country’s Sun; co-incidentally, my new favourite track. A cracking start!
Playing material from the full range of their 22 year existence, they finished an outstanding first set with ‘Mogwai fear Satan’, another favourite track and one from their first LP. The early tracks are a lot more guitar based than the later material which incorporate more electronics, glitchey noises and samples along with piano. Their music maintains a certain core ethic, they always sound like Mogwai, though the sound is shifting and dynamic, developing with each new LP. There are even the occasional vocal tracks on albums these days.
After a short intermission they appeared back on stage, with original drummer Martin Bulloch taking the seat The ‘encore’ was excellent, concluding with a fabulous 15 minute of ‘My father, my king’, coincidentally was my previous favourite track. It all made me feel very very happy!
We were a few rows back from the front so not in the best seats for taking photos. The light show was amazing, as good as the music deserved. I would love to get a press pass one day and be able to take all the photos I want using the big old DSLR. These photos just do not do justice to how amazing the lighting was.
Third time, and I think this was the best set yet. They are a fabulous band, one that very easily transcends both record and live performance , not something that is always accomplished.