Manchester’s Albert Hall is a venue like no other: the grade II listed building is celebrating its tenth anniversary as a music venue with a series of gigs. Tonight, the majestic venue opens its doors to Glaswegian sons Mogwai for the first of two shows.
The old chapel is treated to colossal noise from Mogwai, who played cuts from across their career. Mogwai are a band with pedigree, having released a clutch of stunning albums which in turn earned the band an intense cult status among rock fans. Specialising in instrumental post-rock epics, Mogwai were borne in retaliation to the hyper-commercialised end of Britpop. Their dark, brooding soundscapes are a perfect match for the gothic innards of the Albert Hall – the near-deafening instrumentals shake the old building to its very core.
‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ is an early highlight, the slower, piano-led number is beautiful and reflective, before building to an immense reverie. The cut gives the band room to build a monolith of sound, and is a superb example of the sheer scale of the noise this group creates. Guitars layered over one another with keys and synths fills the beautiful old building, and the sheer volume of the band causes flecks of old paintwork to vacate their positions on the ceiling and float listlessly into the masses.
The only words in a near-speechless set come from 2021 single, ‘Ritchie Sacramento’. As Mogwai cuts come, ‘Ritchie’ is something of an outlier: verse-chorus-verse formula toplined with actual singing (a rarity when it comes to Mogwai tracks). Don’t let that alter your perception, however, Mogwai can write songs in the traditional framework just as well as the next band, but that special Mogwai flavour is always lurking. Thunderous percussion and pounding guitar is still a crucial aspect of this cut.
‘Celing Granny’ and ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’ are further highlights before Mogwai finishes the main set with ‘Ratts of The Capital’, an eight-minute epic from Happy Songs for Happy People. The complexity of these pieces, and watching the Glasgow band re-create them live is astonishing to behold: Mogwai are effectively an orchestra who have subbed the violins for Fenders and the harpsichord for fuzz pedals.
The night is closed out with ‘Like Herrod’, a track that brings the sheer power of the band’s sound into sharp focus. The song burns slowly, before fading into near silence; softly fingered bass and delicate guitar slow to nothing, and then *boom* the track resumes with intense power into a heavy, grungy refrain; this happens twice more in the 11-minute epic. When it kicks in, the sound hits you like a wall of noise, and as Dominic Aitchison’s bassline reverberates around every ribcage in the venue, you can’t help but bask in the glow of ear splitting fuzz and feedback.
photo credit: Antony Crook