Live Review: Mogwai, Rings Around Saturn

9 March 2018 | 12:02 pm | Tobias Handke

"... Breathtaking."

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As far as support acts go Rings Around Saturn is the perfect warm-up act for tonight's main event.

Masterminded by Melbourne's Rory McPike, Rings Around Saturn conjures an unsettling yet uplifting atmosphere with a selection of ambient tunes. Parked behind his computer set-up, McPike does a great job despite the sound being too low in the mix.

"How you going?" asks Mogwai's guitarist Stuart Braithwaite. "We've come all the way from Glasgow, Scotland. It's good to be back in Melbourne." What follows is a tour de force in orchestral post-rock from the phenomenal noise heavy band. Hunted By A Freak opens proceedings with its gentle percussion and indecipherable vocals. The soaring Crossing The Road Material has heads nodding and bodies swaying and is the first in a set dominated by tracks taken from last year's fantastic Every Country's Sun. Coolverine is an infectious barrage of guitars. Don't Believe The Fife begins life as a slow grind of guitars with a sweeping synth line, building to a chaotic and thunderous conclusion. Barry Burns swaps his guitar for the keyboard as Braithwaite handles vocals duties on the dark-pop of Party In The Dark.

The new songs are great but it's the old favourites that get the crowd yelping and applauding. Rano Pano is a wall of distortion that's inescapable. I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead floats between industrial rock and atmospheric wonder. Nearing ten minutes, Two Rights Make One Wrong is an epic fusion of frantic percussion and swirling guitars ending in an instrumental car crash. The clear highlight amongst the capacity crowd is Mr Beast cut Auto Rock. A synth-driven build-up of emotion, the song is best remembered for soundtracking Michael Mann's highly underrated 2006 cinematic masterpiece Miami Vice. Played during the film's final minutes Auto Rock bristles with electricity, simultaneously conveying the feelings of heartbreak and joy experienced by the characters on the screen. Hearing it live is incredible, with this magical piece of music still holding up 12 years on. Bathed in red lights Mogwai unleash the rock-heavy Old Poisons before exiting to a chorus of cheers. 

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Walking back out each member of Mogwai has a drink in hand as Braithwaite exclaims, "Thank you, cheers," about the tenth time he's done so tonight. The encore comprises two tracks. Remurdered sounds like Kraftwerk combining with John Carpenter to score Escape From New York. Full of murky, future vibes it's a menacing track. Mogwai Fear Satan is an epic explosion of noise that's almost deafening, with the distortion from Braithwaite's guitar continuing long after the band has left the stage. Mogwai are still the most pioneering and captivating post-rock group to come out of the '90s with tonight's performance best summed up with the one word; breathtaking.