NO-ONE ever said this would be your typical Celtic Connections show.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Star rating: * * * *
If the number of Marshall amps ranged across the stage wasn’t sufficient warning that Mogwai like to turn things up to eleven, then the volume of the pre-set soundcheck would have alerted patrons that it was time to insert earplugs now.
Mogwai’s smitten home support were well prepared for the coming storm, having revelled in the band’s punishing soundscapes for almost two decades. The novelty, naturally, lay in hearing their traditional tumult in such an acoustically pristine context as a bespoke concert hall.
Even so, there was something almost thrillingly obscene about the lack of concession made to this decorous environment. Even the quieter, more reflective moments of the set crackled with menace and enough distortion to set the ears ringing.
Arguably the biggest shock of the night was just how lovely and limpid Stuart Braithwaite’s voice sounded on Cody, one of Mogwai’s rare vocal tracks. Elsewhere, touring guest Luke Sutherland contributed murmured vox and violin and keyboard player Barry Burns supplied the vocoder effect on a blissful The Lord Is Out Of Control.
The meaty analogue synth arpeggios and twin drum assault of Remurdered sounded particularly satisfying live, like the soundtrack to some early 80s sci-fi conspiracy thriller. This was also that rarest of things, a Mogwai track to get you moving, shrewdly partnered with the funky Krautrock finale of Mexican Grand Prix.
But they were not done with the assault yet, instead saving up the searing, almost shocking volume surge on the closing Mogwai Fear Satan as a jolt to anyone caught napping in the comfy seats.
RM Hubbert’s support slot was, in complete contrast, gentle, genial and entirely acoustic but with a similar capacity to mesmerize. Hubbert has had a busy Celtic Connections but had not exhausted his ready supply of sardonic anecdotes, introducing instrumental compositions allegedly inspired by Ayrshire cocktails (Buckstasy) and transcendent curries (Go Slowly).
Hubbert’s guitar playing, part flamenco, part post-rock, was as expressive as his storytelling, advancing seamlessly from classical flourish through some technical picking to a percussive technique one might call strum-and-drum in the space of a few minutes. When he did sing, it was with a certain soothing melancholy, while guest vocalist Aidan Moffat added his signature hangdog drollery to Car Song.
Seen on 28.01.14