Mogwai – Terminal 5 – May 9, 2014
Mogwai transcend the traditional model of a band by elevating their playing to fabricate an intensely tangible environment that the listener inhabits. In this way they are more like an orchestra, with their evolving arrangements and sonic projections of the grand dramatic narrative. Mogwai are more gatekeepers to a dark, tempestuous world of their own creation, both menacing and beautiful. Stoic and reserved in typical Scottish manner, they usher in followers with their distinct brand of atmospheric instrumental rock and then pound them into submission
On Friday night, Terminal 5 was the ideal setting for Mogwai to display their experience and depth of catalog, masterfully demonstrating how, over time, an integral commitment to a musical identity can result in a set of carefully selected parts that ultimately stand as a singular, cohesive piece. Right off the bat, the epic “Friend of the Night” ramped up the energy in the room to an aroused pitch, and that gravity was sustained with a tapestry of songs that fed off the moods and contours of one another. New tunes like “Remurdered” built to overwhelming climaxes and were complemented in magnitude by “Auto Rock,” “Rano Pano” and “Batcat,” inducing rousing applause. Other songs like “Deesh” and the awe-inspiring “Mogwai Fear Satan” provided more meditative refrains before blasting back into majestic flourishes. Mogwai even invited additional musicians onstage to catapult certain numbers to greater levels of amplification, a new territory in their alternate world.
In the midst of all of this, Terminal 5 turned into a washing machine of pulsating splashes of light in punctuating unison with earth-shaking sonic movements, pushing beyond the ordinary interaction of listening and watching. It thundered and consumed, in some places abruptly alternating between splintering outbursts and soft undercurrents. The deliberate advance of heavy drums beneath layers of expansive guitars sent impact waves across the room, and from above you could see the crowd swaying like undulating waters, stirred into unified, synchronized movement. By the end, it was like a warm electric current had passed through everyone. There seemed to be an unspoken acknowledgement that a Mogwai show transcends the average concert experience. It’s the difference in reaction between “Oh, that was really good” and “What just happened?” In this way, Mogwai broaden the contemporary music landscape. —Charles Steinberg