Post-rock heavyweights play an intimate gig in support of Scottish Circle
These days more familiar in multi-tiered concert halls and the occasional date at the Hydro, it was a very special experience indeed to be able to hear Mogwai in a small black cube of a room once more, alongside an audience in the low hundreds. They were playing this hometown gig alongside support act Heir of the Cursed for a special occasion, a charity show in support of the Scottish Circle, a committee of women dedicated to raising funds and awareness for women's protection and empowerment (and a part of the wider Circle, a charity founded and headed by Annie Lennox). All proceeds from this event will be donated to Glasgow Rape Crisis and the Nonceba Centre, a family counselling centre in Cape Town which offers support and safe houses for abused women and children.
The presence of a bucket of earplugs on the bar was also charitable on our ears, because Mogwai's sound has long-since outstripped venues this size, and towards the front of the room there was a kind of My Bloody Valentine effect going on. Without 'plugs in it was hard to hear the definition of the loudest music, or anything but the ringing in your own ears, although the early stages of the show eased us in gently. The slow but ominous build of 'Yes! I Am a Long Way from Home' fed into the tender waves of 'Friend of the Night' and the loose, Neu!-like groove of 'Crossing the Road Material' and 'Coolverine'.
The deployment of Stuart Braithwaite's rarely-heard vocal for two tracks which bookend the group's career to date also uncovered their little-commented-on ability as pop songwriters of some skill; first, the delicate balladry of 'Cody', with Braithwaite's voice adrift on one of their gentler compositions amid thoughts of night driving and bittersweet memories of friendship; and then 'We're Not Done', from the recent Kin soundtrack, a hurtling indie-rock banger which threatens to drown amid the levels of reverb washing over it.
This last track was also the point at which the sonic floodgates opened, first into the insistent, unmistakeable riff of 'Rano Pano', then the thrashing 'Old Poisons' and the industrial slow-build of 'Every Country's Sun'. As far as Mogwai have greatest hits, the finale worked through the best of them, including the watery, voice-manipulated ambience of '2 Rights Make 1 Wrong', the monumental 'Like Herod' and a rolling, thunderous encore of 'My Father My King'. With Martin Bulloch restored to the drum stool after health issues, and Braithwaite breaking from his usual, modest between-song thank-yous to give a mention to the Scottish Circle, this felt like a larger-scale triumph than the size of venue suggested.