Music review: Mogwai, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Scotland’s greatest rock band capped off a memorable year with an everything-up-to-eleven romp through their impressive back catalogue, writes David Pollock

Mogwai, Usher Hall, Edinburgh *****

The Mogwai live experience remains an emotional journey more than a piece of entertainment, and you have to come equipped for that – with a pair of earplugs, as much as anything else. On a short, pre-Christmas tour of major Scottish cities, the perennial Scottish rock group’s power and focus remains undimmed, in the year when their classic debut album Mogwai Young Team reached its 25th anniversary.

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Another nine studio albums and numerous soundtracks later, it’s an impressive legacy to have never phoned it in or gone off chasing misjudged popular trends, meaning the setlist here drew comfortably from throughout their career. There are no greatest hits in a Mogwai set, only some friends older than others, although most fans might have felt short-changed if they’d left out the cathartic double-feint noise terror of Like Herod or the rolling, mountainous closing epic My Father My King (they didn’t).

Stuart Braithwaite PIC: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures/Shutterstock

The lighting onstage was set to silhouette the band anonymously at the base of a strafing series of spotlights and a blood-red backdrop wash showing the cover of last year’s number one album As the Love Continues, the makers of the noise mostly hidden among their amps. Only guitarist Stuart Braithwaite’s voice was heard, with regular noises of gentlemanly thanks to the crowd and in the pining, melodic vocals of Cody and Ritchie Sacramento, two songs from either end of their career which bring together Mogwai’s lightest and most reassuring sonic expression.

Otherwise it was a cataclysmic cycle of hopeful build and release, from understated opener Boltfor through the tentative but focused Don’t Believe the Fife, the ferocious Ratts of the Capital and the always-welcome emotive power of New Paths to Helicon Pt.1 and – inevitably – Christmas Steps. Scotland’s greatest rock band remains undefeated. What was the point in clapping? You might as well try and whistle a tune in a hurricane.