LIVE: Mogwai, Perth Festival Chevron Gardens – 2 Mar, 2018

LIVE: Mogwai, Perth Festival Chevron Gardens – 2 Mar, 2018
With Tobacco Rat
Review & photography by Peter Gardner

Mogwai, the Glaswegian instrumental post-rockers, started their Australian tour at Perth Festival’s Chevron Gardens on Friday night to a capacity crowd.

Kicking off the evening proceedings was Perth’s own Tobacco Rat, delivering a spirited, if not surreal set of experimental sounds. The music incorporated many sound samples of scrap metal and machinery parts from field recordings made by the Rat himself, performer Jake Steele. The result gives a dark, subterranean, industrial feel to the music. Steele’s silver hazmat suit and rat mask, combined with the assault of deep, almost subsonic, bass resulted in something to be felt and experienced rather than listened to. As Tobacco Rat’s set proceeded, my usual ambivalence for this style of music gave way to an appreciation and admiration of what the Rat was achieving, and by the end of the set had certainly won me over.

Conversely, Mogwai sadly had the opposite effect. Entering the stage to low key, muddy mood lighting, the band, who formed in 1995, announced themselves to the packed house with a quick, ‘hello, we’re Mogwai from Glasgow, Scotland,’ and launched into their first number.

Mixing up the set across their extensive back catalogue, with the only vocal track of the night being Party In The Dark from their latest album, Mogwai varied the mood and tempo with quieter keyboard tones building into heaver guitar driven rock. As the quieter movements segued into deafening crescendos, the band constantly swapped instruments and positions, exhibiting the musical prowess of the performers. The light show also picked up considerably after the first couple of tracks, with an explosion of light and sound assaulting the audience, in turns hypnotic and aggressive.

Mogwai are virtuoso musicians, producing incredible instrumental textured rock soundscapes, with a distinctly Celtic feel. The music would not be out of place accompanying dramatic aerial footage, overflying rugged Scottish mountain landscapes and lochs, and the band have done a number of soundtrack projects in their time.

It is here I think the problem lies. I have been listening to the band’s last two albums in the car all week, and really enjoying them. I was looking forward to this show, expecting an uplifting, stirring event, but in the end the performance felt flat and lacked emotion. There was no communication with the audience beside the odd, ‘thank you,’ delivered in thick Scottish brogue, and hence no real connection. The band stood there and did their thing, making up for the lack of passion on stage with a sonic assault from the PA as the volume was cranked up. A number of people were noticed rubbing their ears as they left the venue after the show.

I could be churlish and say they had the same emotional range on stage as Coldplay, but I wouldn’t be that mean. This was the first night of their Australian tour following several dates in Asia, and Mogwai wouldn’t be the first band to play a poor Perth gig as the resulting exhaustion and jetlag kick in. In the end, they played a technically brilliant set, but the lack of passion left me feeling unmoved, which was a great pity.

Mogwai seemed to take themselves a bit too seriously, missing the humour and mischief of bands like Ozric Tentacles or The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. They take their name from the cute and fluffy thing in the movie Gremlins, making me wish somebody would just get on with it and feed them after midnight. I would love to see what the band would produce then, that would be a show worth watching.

Set list
Hunted by a Freak
Crossing the Road Material
Party in the Dark
Rano Pano
New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 1
Ithica 27ø9
Don’t Believe the Fife
I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
Every Country’s Sun
Mogwai Fear Satan
Old Poisons

LIVE: Mogwai, Perth Festival Chevron Gardens - 2 Mar, 2018

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About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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