LIVE: Mogwai / BEAK> – The Albert Hall, Manchester
After a slightly heavy weekend, Far Out thought we couldn’t possibly top it all off in any better way than with a night of experimental rock at one of our favourite Manchester venues.
With that in mind, we were compelled to head back to The Albert Hall to witness an evening headlined by the iconic post-rock of Mogwai, with support provided by Bristol oddballs BEAK>.
The latter band is of course the other project of Geoff Barrow, famed for creating many of the woozy backings to trip-hop’s most recognisable soundtracks as a founding member of Portishead. However, with the band’s trademark chasm-like gaps in between album releases, it’s not surprising he’s settled into another outlet for his talents.
It’s a fantastic precursor to Mogwai’s wall of sound, presenting a hugely textured journey through krautrock, electronica, dub and psychedelia. There’s some kind of jibe about BEAK>’s dissatisfaction with their last visit to the city when they opened for Arcade Fire, but that really just gets lost amid a dreamy set. As we sit at the top of the former church’s benched balcony area, we’re in heaven as the lights reflect against the stained glass windows – and the main event hasn’t even started yet.
Mogwai take to the stage to a typically warm reception, the kind of band who have organically built up the most adoring of fanbases over decades of hard labour, rather than bursting from nought to sixty with a breakthrough hit single or ‘on a plate’ festival headline shows. They specialise in LPs and, of course, a reputation for a truly dynamic live show.
Tonight is no different. It’s so rare for a band that revel so much in reverb and distortion to have such control over their sound. They seem to go from quaint ambience to rip-roaring rock ‘n’ roll in a heartbeat, shifting from an almost grunge influenced thud to symphonic beauty out of nowhere. They also wear their roots on their sleeve with the suitably Gaelic-inspired ‘Don’t Believe the Fife’ from their latest record Every Country’s Sun.
If there can be one criticism it is possibly some of the less percussive numbers, which scream ‘epic’ but seem to ultimately lack substance. Luckily, however, the real showstoppers are indeed saved for a two-track encore insisted upon by a sold out crowd who have been enamoured from start to finish. ‘New Paths to Helicon, Pt.1’ and ‘We’re No Here’ signal the end of an encapsulating night.