[Photos and words by Rez Avissar]
Mogwai treated the Music Hall of Williamsburg to a strong set that combined some classic picks with their newer, more head-banging material.
I'm glad I finally got to see these guys live. Sick with a vicious flu, I was certain I wasn't going to make it. That was, until I came across a video of a performance of "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" featuring cello that ripped me to shreds. With minutes left, I immediately sprang to Music Hall. I got there in the middle of the first song.
Mogwai certainly aren't the most photogenic or energetic band, and Stuart (the bald one) is the only one with any sort of energy or presence on stage, but of course they make up for it with sonic stimulation. I spotted two laptops on stage, one running Ableton Live, and I'm wondering how they're incorporating this software, because I couldn't tell. Snapping photos next to their guitar guy, I saw how the tunings change from song to song (Mogwai diehards, check the last pic for his setlist with tunings). These guys have found ways to wrench gut emotions from their strings, sometimes with three guitars chugging at once, blending together to form one beast of a sound. I'm sure on record there are many, many more layers, but, paired with the volume levels they are notorious for, live in the flesh you can really FEEL it grab you.
With their other recent setlists a little too bloated with cuts from their latest, The Hawk is Howling for my liking, this tour saw them bring back some carefully chosen older gems like "Yes! I'm A Long Way From Home" and "Summer." The bro-centric audience, with more than a few conspicuous long-haired headbangers, rode every wave, especially the powerful 4-song closer of "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" (yes, vocoder, no cello), "We're No Here," then "Like Herod" and "Batcat." There were several moments where the drums would drop out and the strobe light would pulse faster and the crunchy drone would slowly climb where it all locked together, and for "We're No Here" and "Batcat," the band channelled straight-up metal a la Isis/Mastodon (as for the other two, rightful staples). This is where the peaks were found in this set, but still couldn't approach the sublimity of a performance like the one linked earlier, at least to me. As a matter of fact, instead of reading this, just watch that clip. Like, now.