Mogwai @ The Tivoli, Brisbane, 21.02.2024

Mogwai @ The Tivoli, Brisbane, 21.02.2024
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

These days the frequencies kick in at around 14 kHz. Those mosquito noise sounds above that just aren’t there anymore. When it comes to those anti-teen congregation devices they install at shopping malls these days, I’ve got nothing to worry about.

For the last dozen or so years I’ve been doing the right thing and wearing earplugs at gigs. The proper moulded expensive ones. Sure there was 20 or so years of going to gigs before that, 30, 50, 80 shows a year but it was probably far overdue that I started taking more care of my hearing.  But y’know, you’re young, you’re stupid, you’re invincible, you’re gonna live forever, things like your hearing when you’re an old man don’t bother you too much.  People far more sensible than me told I’d get used to wearing ear plugs, even that they could make everything sound better. They told me that I’d quickly adjust to wearing them but a dozen or so years later, I still struggle with them. I do it because I know it’s the right thing, or at least the sensible thing, but it’s just not the same.

One of the greatest things I have ever experienced was watching My Bloody Valentine play three nights in a row at the All Tomorrow’s Parties weekend they curated in Minehead back in December 2009.  Three night in a row of getting to experience ‘The Holocaust’ section of ‘You Made Me Realise’. Watching the band play 10 or so minutes of the loudest musical sound I’ve ever heard while watching people around me doubling with the foam earplugs they were handing out at the door and fingers in their ears to make the extreme noise a bit more manageable.  You’d be foolish to not wear earplugs for at least some of these 10 or so minutes each night, but those snatched moments when you experienced it without earplugs were something else, an experience I’ll never forget but also an experience that I’m still looking to find again. Maybe it’s that earplugs filter out the decibels that make the hairs on your arm stand up.

All of which is how I find myself towards the back of the Tivoli watching Mogwai, with my earplugs clasped firmly in my hands for most of the evening, letting the waves of sound from the front of the room wash over me.  There’s beauty in noise but also beauty in the volume. Mogwai do this probably better than anyone. However pleasant and melodic the quiet sections are, the parts that involve extreme volume are always transcendental.

I have a theory that there are two great Mogwai albums. The first one is their latest, whatever one that happens to be at any point in time. The second is whatever Mogwai album you happen to be listening to at the time. A ridiculously consistent band but one that’s ever evolving, always different and yet always undeniably Mogwai.

This time around the first of their two great albums hypothesised about above is 2022’s As The Love Continues. These Australian shows are their first since last February. Presumably it’s coming up to the end of the cycle for this latest album before they have to go away and dream it all up again.

There’s no change in Brisbane for the tour’s opening song, the majestically named ‘To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth’, which skips the sampled line that gives the song its title.  Three more songs from As The Love Continues are included in tonight’s set as they have on each of these Australian dates. ‘Ritchie Sacramento’, one of the couple of songs where Stuart Braithwaite provides vocals, and the magnificent 80s synthwave of ‘Dry Fantasy’ are included early in the night, after an early airing of almost mandatory ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ before Come on Die Young‘s ‘Cody’. The band’s Barry Burns has not been able to make the tour but stand-in Maria Sappho makes his absence behind the keyboards less conspicuous.

Following the quiet simplicity of ‘Kids Will Be Skeletons’, the jarring skuzzed riff in ‘Rano Plano’ build to a shuddering crescendo that’s accompanied to perfection by drummer Martin Bulloch’s heavily reverbed toms and the discordant melody over the top.

While the guitars and the expanse of Braithwaite’s pedalboard, always grabs the column inches, Bulloch is the largely unrecognised hero of the band, especially when they play live.  Following on from his contribution to ‘Rano Plano’, his drum rolls as ‘Ex-Cowboy’ reaches its climax are also exemplary and steal the moment away from his bandmates.

The last of the four As The Love Continues songs is ‘Drive the Nail’. While the other three are obvious inclusions, on paper, at least, ‘Drive the Nail’ seemed lot less obvious. A strange choice in the setlist compared to some of the other songs they could have played from their latest album. However, it’s a complete surprise when it turns out to probably be the standout song of the night. It has an energy that it doesn’t have on record and the sound of the snare drum elevates to a height I wouldn’t have thought possible if I hadn’t heard it with my own ears.

As perfect as the wall of sound that the guitars build in ‘New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 1’ is, I’m still all in on the drums, they’ve got my full attention.

For the rest of the set, the band continue to delve into their back catalogue. ‘Remurdered’ from 2014’s Rave Tapes and ‘Old Poisons’ from 2017’s Every Country’s Sun round out the main set with songs from the band’s recent past.  The two song encore goes further back into the band’s discography with ‘Killing All the Flies’ from 2003’s Happy Songs for Happy People.

It all ends as it always does, as it has to, with ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’, Mogwai’s finest moment in a career of fine moments. Mogwai may play around with their setlist from night to night, but they know that this is a song that can’t be omitted. A sixteen minute opus based on a three note refrain, but what three notes they are.  Is there any reason these three notes can wrest the emotions that they do when played in this progression?  Every time I’ve seen Mogwai play this song, it’s never been anything other than stunning, verging on a religious experience. Tonight is no different.  It’s always a slightly bittersweet moment because it means the end and the start of the long countdown until we get to do it all again.

Afterwards, it’s a real surprise finding out that this was Mogwai’s first show in Brisbane since March 2015, a gap of almost 9 years.  Although there was an Australian tour in 2018, there were only four shows; Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Golden Plains, with Brisbane missing out. So while experiencing the full force of Mogwai’s live sound is probably bad for my hearing, I’m willing to take the risk once every few years. Just for them, mind. It’s pay off for the absolute joy of hearing them unfiltered, as they deserve to be experienced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.