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Mogwai at the Phoenix Concert Theater (April 26, 2011)

This has been a good week for post-rock fans in Toronto. After Godspeed You! Black Emperor blew minds at Lee’s Palace over the easter weekend, the Phoenix Concert Theater was graced by Scottish post-rock juggernauts Mogwai on tuesday. For anyone who is a fan of post-rock, and just loud and pretty music in general, you should really do you self a favour and catch either of these bands live if you have the chance.

This was my second time seeing Mogwai, I saw them about 2 years ago in Sydney, Australia when they were touring for Hawk Is Howling, and again they didn’t disappoint. For a band that has been doing that they do best for over a decade they are masters of their craft. The so called genre of post-rock has become dilute with many imitations, but few of them match the intensity or integrity of the originals. Over all this show was a much more sedate affair then the last time I saw them, their set list featured heavily form the latest release, the amusingly titled Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, which when translated live seemed to lack the aggression and sense of danger  of their earlier output. The great thing about Mogwai though is they have a keen sense of melody, and their softer songs are great too.

They opened, unsurprisingly, with White Noise, the opener form their latest album, followed by Friend of the Night from Mr Beast, and then I Know You Are But What Am I? from Happy Songs For Happy People. It wasn’t until their forth song that the stage lights flashed red and bathed the stage in an ominous glow and they launched into The Hawk Is Howling opener I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead that their trademark distortion came on thick and they actually bared their teeth. The middle of the set featured the majority of the remaining tracks from Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will before closing with the most aggressive number of the night: the acid edged rocker Batcat.

It was surprising that I found the most enjoyable songs of their set were the two from Hawk Is Howling, because on CD Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will felt like their best new release in a long time. I took to it much faster than I did to anything else released since Happy Songs For Happy People, but it just didn’t seem to translate live as well as the two previous albums did.

By far the best moment of the night though was the final song of their encore, the Young Team classic Mogwai Fear Satan. Many bands have an ace up their sleeves, a classic song that the fans want to hear that they can drop towards the end of a set to fire everyone up. Mogwai doesn’t just have an ace with this track though, the have the whole royal flush. In my opinion this is one of the best live songs ever and Mogwai shows are worth the price of admission just for this one moment of sonic destruction. If you’ve never heard this song, you need to. Now:

The night wasn’t without disappointment however. For starter me and several other SLR wielding fans in the line were giving the harsh news at the door that we couldn’t bring our cameras in. This really pissed me off. The second lot of bad news was that fellow scottish band Errors who were supposed to be the opening act didn’t make it, and I was really looking forward to seeing them as wel. Instead opening duties fell to Canadian band Old World Vultures. I’d not heard of these guys before, and while I quite enjoyed them the friends I was their with didn’t. To be fare they had a fairly derivative last 2000’s post-rock sound; they didn’t have anything special to distinguish them from the legion of other cookie cutter soft-loud-soft-louder post-rock bands which have popped up in the last decade in the wake of the success of bands like Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Mono et al.

1. White Noise
2. Friend Of The Night
3. I Know You Are But What Am I?
4. Rano Pano
5. I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
6. Death Rays
7. San Pedro
8. How To Be A Werewolf
9. New Paths To Helicon, Pt 1
10. You’re Lionel Richie
11. Mexican Grand Prix
12. Batcat
13. Hasenheide
14. Hunted By A Freak
15. Mogwai Fear Satan

One Comment

  1. Kim

    The Mogwai song that solidified my love for the band is “Rage:Man.”

    Really fabulous show.