Mogwai: Show Review (Wiltern, Los Angeles)

    This band, quite simply, rocks. They’re loud. They’re full of riffs and feedback. They’ve got heartbreaking melodies that stomp their way out of the squall. And they’re back with a vengeance. Mogwai is touring in support of their forthcoming 6th full length, The Hawk is Howling, and their bone crushing sound thundered into the Wiltern and nearly shook down all the ornamental woodwork in this gorgeous theater on an otherwise unassuming Tuesday night.


    For just under two hours, the Glaswegians pummeled our eardrums and seared our eyeballs with strobe lights so bright I needed to shade my eyes to even hear the music. But that’s the brilliance of a Mogwai show. Their records are loud and raucous and also soft and contemplative, often within a few bars of each other. Live they are an experience. Recordings can’t contain their sound—live they can push the boundaries of their instruments and amps at the mercy of our ears. And it’s a beautiful thing.


    The set is heavy on the new songs and that’s not a bad thing. If these live versions are anything to go by, this new record is going to be yet another classic Mogwai loud/soft riff-heavy affair—“I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” and “Scotland’s Shame” right up there with “Helicon 1” and “Like Herod” for heartbreaking, earsplitting beauty. And those latter tracks still break my heart in that wonderful way only music can—these two songs alone worth the price of admission. “Like Herod” is a study in tension building; most of the crowd knows the explosion is coming, but we’re still holding our breath and the air stops vibrating, like the calm before the storm and when the band finally tears into the wall of noise, heads are bobbing and devil horns are pumping. And a seamless segue into new track “Batcat” shows that the band has both come a long way from the Young Team days but also full circle.  


    The one two punch of “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” and “We’re No Here” closes a near perfect night, with the jaunty bass line of “2 Rights” giving way to its own wall of swirling noise that sets the stage for a most heavy version of “We’re No Here”—it’s brighter yet darker and bigger than on record and seems like its being played by twice as many guys. After 6 albums and over 10 years of touring, Mogwai has their sound honed to a delicate yet powerful science and they’ve got so many songs to choose from that each night of this tour is a new experiment in sets. Mogwai’s Hawk is Howling indeed.