Mogwai at Grand Ole Opry

Utterly brilliant and back to their best
In a venue that is much more used to weekend line dancing and quick draw shootouts in the middle of the dance floor, a far more subdued crowd of packed in hipsters await the arrival of Mogwai. Those smart enough to buy their tickets as soon as this gig was announced are joined by those lucky enough to be able to wangle a place on the guest list, and while support act Remember Remember provide an excellent introduction to the evening, it’s hard not to feel the intense anticipation in the air for the headlining homegrown heroes.

A short burst of Scottish dates in celebration of the imminent release of their latest album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, this date has the feel of a Mogwai fan club exclusive, and that relaxed, jovial atmosphere is evident in the relationships onstage. While sometimes their music could be said to be fraught with emotion and intense energy, there’s silliness and giggle fits onstage tonight, and it shows a more lighthearted side that has always been evident in song titles and famous episodes such as the ‘Blur are shite’ t-shirts.

Musically, they stand shoulder to should across the front of the stage, the lack of ego driven personalities perhaps key to the chemistry that makes Mogwai so special. Newbies like Rano Pano are introduced alongside older favourites such as Xmas Steps and Yes I’m a Long Way from Home, and while the familiar touchstones are there (that inimitable gift for melody, tight interplay and sheer beauty), they also seem to show their innate ability to gel like a unit around any style they turn their hand to. Texture and atmosphere have always been key to Mogwai’s sound, and those qualities provide a solid backbone for their new musical experiments.

Personal highlight is Mexican Grand Prix, an undulating krautrock opus from the new album that is powered along by a delicious vocal melody, shot through with effects to give the whole thing a driving, dreamy quality that is hypnotic in the extreme.

By the time the main set closes with Like Herod, there’s no-one present who could dispute that Mogwai are masters of their craft, able to coax you on a musical journey that is utterly unique. This could be the soundtrack to the apocalypse, a huge rolling beast that devours all in its path, burning itself into the senses in an aural assault that is as dark and thrilling as it is loud.

To try and explain away the magic with words is a fruitless task. If ever you needed your faith in music reaffirmed, then ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’ is the gift that will make everything clear again. Mogwai are an amazing band, that much is true, and one that by tonight’s standards are at the very top of their game. Magnificent.

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