Music review: Mogwai at the Hydro, Glasgow

Mogwai are a devoted cult concern who have only grown in stature over a 20-year career. In the mid-90s, their domain was dingy basement bars; now they are more likely to be seen at the Edinburgh International Festival and, in another landmark, headlining their hometown's biggest venue '“ introduced by Santa no less.

Mogwai are never happier than when playing at punishing frequencies PIC: David Leth Williams/AFP/Getty

Mogwai/Ride, Hydro, Glasgow ****

Before that brief moment of levity, there was earnest support from reunited Oxford quartet Ride, veterans of the early 90s shoegaze scene of effects-pedal-happy bands who influenced Mogwai’s sculpting of dynamic soundscapes.

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Like Mogwai, their music is a mix of the cerebral and visceral, making up in sonic power what they lack in stage presence – absolutely no rock’n’roll antics here, as all focus was channelled into sonic flourishes such as the psychedelic backwards guitar and rolling basslines of Seagull.

The likes of Dreams Burn Down was built for arenas, from Laurence Colbert’s steady but bruising beat to the surges of distorted guitar. It was easy to hear the appeal to the young Mogwai – and to the middle-aged Mogwai, whose recent single Party In The Dark is the most conventionally indie pop track they have produced in years.

But they have carved their own path, opening their set with vocoder lullaby Hunted By A Freak, a little light warm-up before they crashed into Crossing The Road Material and the studious guitar hammering began. Mogwai are never happier than when playing at punishing frequencies capable of rearranging your internal organs.

However, the first half of a show they have been touring round Europe was not quite big enough for this venue, even with the immersive sound. This was more head-nodding mesmeric experience, which might explain the muted reaction of the crowd, who only really came alive at the anticipated queasy volume leap in the middle of classic track Mogwai Fear Satan, during which Honeyblood drummer Cat Myers, deputising for the recuperating Martin Bulloch, really showed her mettle.

Apart from this thrill-seeker’s delight, a proggy, Brian Eno-influenced double keyboard odyssey provided a welcome dynamic shift, even though the band couldn’t resist a pummelling guitar coda.

The wonderful warm analogue synth tones of Remurdered provided another standout highlight from their later catalogue, followed up with the heat-seeking helter skelter of Old Poisons, which was accompanied by all the lighting firepower they had failed to use earlier, while the brute metallic force of We’re No Here ensured they went out on a high.