Mogwai, Brainiac – Albert Hall, Manchester: Live Review

Mogwai, Brainiac – Albert Hall, Manchester – 10th February 2023

Two nights in Manchester and if you’re smart, you have tickets for both in your sweaty palm. Or much cleaner and environmentally sound e-tickets on your device of choice. SetlistFM addicts will have noted pretty clear distinctions on the tours’ two night stands so the chances of getting some setlist swings are high.

Due to prior commitments, we’re just in for the first of the two gigs but nonetheless very excited to have a first live Mogwai experience having been particularly charmed by the As The Love Continues album. It’s also a celebration of ten years since the reopening of the Albert Hall, the former Wesleyan Chapel (as featured on TV’s Most Haunted we should add…).

Naturally, Friday night sees a sell-out and when the Albert Hall is sold out…it’s very full. A tight audience is in stark contrast to the chilled sounds that come from the stage. The perfect venue for the type of immersive experience that Mogwai and their music purvey. Post Rock instrumentals that chill and swell and offer

A #1 album that also received a Mercury nomination and which, naturally, received the Scottish Album of the Year award, As The Love Continues gets highlighted in the early part of the set The opening To The Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth may be a thinly veiled statement of intent. The ponderous rhythm and hanging chords and textures along with delicately placed notes, the band appears dwarfed by the giant backdrop and lighting rig that hangs high above in the rafters of the building. The Scottish (deep-fried maybe) version of Sigur Ros pulses gently while the visuals match the crescendos with overpowering white light.

The band is happy to build their soundscapes whilst remaining humbly in the shadows. For the audience, being upfront at the barrier, competes with the height of the Albert Hall stage and may tonight be the less wise choice. Upstairs in the curved pews is the place to be to experience the Mogwai onslaught. One might draw parallels with tonight and the Sixties UFO happenings where the early Pink Floyd were given their head to their cosmic explorations.

The newer songs are focussed towards the first part of the set before we journey into the Mogwai library of work. the rare vocal that comes in Richie Sacramento with a hefty bassline seems a not-too-distant relative of something that this city’s favoured sons, New Order/JD might turn out both musically and lyrically. The slow build at the beginning of Drive The Nail is saved for an encore; deceptively reeling in before an explosive and primitive riff steamroller in like a demented panzer.

How To Be A Werewolf is a beautifully crafted groove that induces a sway amongst even the most statuesque watchers. Again, it conjures up a radio-friendly New Order vibe. One that soon starts to sear into the brain and Stuart Braithwaite is almost excitedly cranking out a guitar part that’s not too far from the Big Country ‘guitars that sound like bagpipes thing. Most exciting six minutes of the night? The moment when the dials went beyond the red? Very possibly and worth searching out the epic 6 Music session version for another shot.

Within the spacious arrangements and surroundings, there’s an electric shrillness that’s all part and parcel of the instrumental Post Rock tropes. It’s loud – several have commented about this and of some other shows of the tour and the emphasis on dynamics makes the crescendos overpoweringly so. One reviewer mentions how Summer provides jump-scares that could wake the dead. It’s on tonight’s setlist and does what Radiohead’s Creep does but in multiples. However, Mogwai Fear Satan is and it’s. a freak out of the highest order with some testing symphonic noise that at certain points burns into whiteness. Follow that with a concession to balance? No way, as there’s a final battering for anyone left standing into submission. Anyone of the belief that the genre doesn’t often get brutal, needs to check the aggression of Old Poison.

Me, I’m heading back out of the Albert Hall and down Peter Street. With more of a mooch than a Richard Ashcroft strut, my own ears are still ringing with a dose of How To Be A Werewolf that somehow seems to still be echoing around the space somewhere, providing the soundtrack for a walk through Manchester’s dark and slightly damp streets.

Brainiac – or 3RA1N1AC for the stylish – open the show with a, by contrast, high energy and often pulsing set that draws on their most recent EP, The Predator Nominate and a healthy chunk of the back catalogue.

There’s a vibrancy about Brainiac recalling the days when Punk was branching off into new wave and pub rock by the pioneers such as Dr Feelgood and The Adverts were refining the sound and the fashions.

The band is back after a considerably lengthy layoff; the death of singer Tim Taylor putting a temporary if elongated pause to their career. They’re grateful for the support of Mogwai to be able to come and play for us and there’s a buzz and encouraging vibe from the Manchester crowd that supports their resurgence. Even the guitars are the right shape to fit the music! The twin guitar attack is balanced with some keyboard flourishes – more to introduce some additional quirks and experimentation to the sound as opposed to textures or solo parts – as Tim Krug and John Schmesal swap roles and duties between the instruments and vocals.

As opposed to the cerebral qualitites of the headliners, Brainiac is a down-to/back-to-earth offering.

Mogwai online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Brainiac online: Facebook / Twitter

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