Scotland might be halfway across the world, but for local Mogwai fans on that fateful Wednesday night sometime mid-January, the world was a little smaller and a helluva lot louder. When news dropped that Soundscape was going to be bringing the legendary Scottish post-rockers to town we were jubilant. It’s not that we’re knocking Malaysia’s live music scene – the local scene is booming – but international acts come with irregularity and have been largely mainstream. This was Mogwai.
Naturally we snapped up an interview with founding members Stuart Braithwaite and Dominic Aitchison. Held on site, as we left with our digital recorder in hand we managed to sneak into guitarist John Cummings’ soundcheck. No surprise that he should work through it with familiar riffs from the band’s own back catalogue but he did test the distortion limits with Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ and GunsNRoses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. Funny….
A downpour then left us stranded in the city for 4 hours. We returned to find a lengthening queue of fans while inside the hall more still swarmed. Local post-rock band Citizens of Ice-Cream’s keyboardist Phang informed the audience from the stage about the no-flash photography and no-smoking rules (read our interview with COIC’s Hwang in the March issue of JUICE). Minutes later, Mogwai strutted on stage in full force.
Strapping on their instruments, frontman Braithwaite greeted the audience, “Hello, we’re Mogwai from Glasgow, Scotland!” Opening with ‘The Precipice’, which built up as the stage lights grew warmer, the crowd was still settling in and chatter rumbled audibly over the sound. Not for long though, as the song erupted into a flare of noise.
A couple of tracks later, the audience was in The Zone and those stray few caught giggling with friends over the “soft parts” were “shushed!” by the more somber members of the audience – and we thought this was a rock concert?! Chilling towards the back of the hall when they started playing ‘I Love You, I’m Going To Blow Up Your School’ we knew we had to get closer and inched our way past meditative fans, only to be stopped in our tracks mid-journey to bask in the haunting opening riffs of crowd-pleaser ‘Hunted By A Freak’. This was followed by ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ which grounded us for a full 15 minutes, though it didn’t feel nearly as long.
Temporarily blinded by the lights, when we regained our vision, the band was playing a new tracks off their The Hawk Is Howling album. ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ was exactly how we felt at that moment. The wash of noise and blaze of lights had us popping out for a breather where already scenesters were dissecting the gig and discussing the merits of the band. Overall opinion: Mogwai are great, but too many local bands sound like them. Still imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, isn’t it?
We head back in and are once again spellbound. After 12 sprawling epics, Mogwai exits off-stage. The crowd immediately chants for more and soon, Mogwai return for a 2-song encore. ‘Like Herod’ sends chills down our spines which quickly turn into full shoulder thrusts timed to sync with the thumping chorus.
The last hurray of the night came in the supernatural form and deliberately epic ‘Batcat’. A long time ago, Mogwai proclaimed they were on a mission to be the loudest band in the world and for a moment they were – at least in KL. Sounding like Deftones minus the vocals, the stage exploded with noise from every direction and when the feedback finally faded, the crowd roared in unison.
A spectacular sign-off to an otherworldly show; we were blown away and left clinging onto our Mogwai autographs. It was midnight by then and as we drove away and the Twin Towers got smaller and smaller, we wondered if they had heard us, all the way in Scotland. J
Tuborg presents Mogwai: Live in Concert shook the KLCC Convention Centre on Wednesday 21 January 2009. Huge props to Soundscape for having the conviction to continue bringing down bands of such caliber. We love you!
Images Ricky Sow