Mogwai / R.M. Hubbert – Music Hall, Aberdeen – Tuesday 21st October 2014
I’ll be drummed out of the Scottish indie blogging fraternity for saying this, but my relationship with Mogwai has been tangential at best.
I saw them supporting the Manics at the Caird Hall in Dundee way back in, what, 1998 or 1999 and quite liked them. But my subsequent attempts to hook up with them on record were less successful – I did get CODY but found the production a bit thin compared to the live sound.
Whilst I liked anything I subsequently heard by them it wasn’t until 2011’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die … that I really got properly on board and I ended up placing it at number 4 in my top 10 albums of the year.
Its proper studio follow-up this year’s ‘Rave Tapes’ is also highly regarded in these parts so if I was ever going to go and see the band live again then this date, conveniently organised for the middle of a week off, was going to be it.
I confess I nearly didn’t make it off the launch pad – at £25 per skull *before* booking fees the show was a fair bit more expensive than I was expecting. But on the basis of now or never I bit the bullet encouraged in part by the fact that support was from the inestimable R.M. Hubbert.
I’d only ever visited the Music Hall once before, to see Mercury Rev back in May 1999, but if anything it seemed even more grand than I remembered it. It was a fine setting for the show.
However you might think that one man and his flamenco styled acoustic tunes would struggle to perform in such surroundings but that certainly wasn’t the case for Hubby.
Despite releasing three albums in less than three years half of his 40 minutes on stage was taken up not with music but with chat. That was a surprise given that one of the performances I’d previously see had been quite taciturn. But he was ferociously entertaining, at times hilarious, thoughtful and occasionally a little belligerent.
The music was great too finishing with ‘Car Song’ (“Is Moffat here? No, he’s on Twitter getting drunk!”). A genuine, national treasure.
In spite of my apparent indifference over the years, Mogwai have simply got on with the business of steadily growing their fanbase at home and abroad such that this show, if not sold out, can’t have been a kick in the pants off 90% capacity.
As anticipated they were ferociously loud such that, despite the sensibly planned use of hearing protection, it really didn’t sound like I was wearing earplugs at all.
My lack of familiarity with the back catalogue meant that it wasn’t until the first encore that I was able to confidently put a name to a song (‘Hunted Like A Freak’) although this didn’t detract at all from my enjoyment.
The show was slightly slow in getting started for my tastes but when the show got louder and faster it was everything I’d want from a (largely) instrumental band. So the older guitar led tunes like ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ and ‘Ithica 27-9‘ were amongst the highlights but then so was this year’s electro single ‘Remurdered’.
Being honest I’m not sure I’d pay that sort of money to see the band again but, for a show which was a slight gamble, it certainly worked out pretty well.