Monday, June 25th, 2012
Mogwai and Odonis Odonis at The Phoenix in Toronto
Frank YangIt seems a bit perverse to use the phrase, “comfort food” with respect to veteran Scottish post-rock giants Mogwai, but there’s real truth in it. There’s no question that they’ve grown as musicians and songwriters over their seven studio albums, but its been a gradual, evolutionary pace that’s not done much to shock or shake loose (m)any of their fans along the way. Their touring regimen has also been similarly predictable, with typically two North American tours per album and each of those shows being rather understated from a visual point of view but offering a sonic experience akin to a really loud, usually abrasive and occasionally beautiful hug by a sledgehammer.
It’s always a satisfying show, make no mistake, but it can get to the point that you don’t necessarily fret about missing one because a) they’d be back soon enough and b) it’s probably not too different from the last one you saw. Those days of taking the band for granted, however, may be coming to an end. When announcing this latest leg of touring for 2011’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, the band mused that this would be “the last extensive touring we do for some time”; perhaps there was a bit of salesmanship in that but one could also believe that the band were indeed wearying of life on the road and weren’t planning to spend as much of theirs on it. So even though I had been perfectly fine missing their last visit in Spring of 2011, I would definitely find the time to make it out to this one at The Phoenix last Monday.
I’m sure that scheduled opener Balam Acab had every intention of making it as well, but he was kept out of the country for the second time in a month – he missed out opening for Active Child in May – and locals Odonis Odonis were tapped to fill in. I’d seen them back in February opening up for The Twilight Sad and while I decided I didn’t dislike them, I wasn’t especially chuffed to see them again so soon; this probably explained why I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed them this time out. Certainly the addition of a second guitarist was a big change for the band, but it didn’t explain how much tighter and more melodic they sounded this time out. No one will confiscating their aggressive, post-punk credentials anytime soon, mind, but they were inarguably much more listenable. I’d read a capsule review of their NXNE showcase a few days earlier mentioning that they were much improved since this same time last year; I’ll go one better and say they’re much improved from four months ago.
Mogwai took the stage casually and opened with, “Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home” off their debut Young Team – no big deal, done it a thousand times – but to a far more enthusiastic respons than I’d have expected. And it’s about now that I realized how young the crowd looked. Typically for a band that’s been around a decade and a half, the audience will look as though they’ve aged along with them but at least from my vantage point, it was a really student-looking demographic who may very well have been at their first Mogwai show. I calculated that this was my sixth and spontaneously aged about a million years. With their enthusiasm, unfortunately, came some obnoxiousness and the one mook calling out for “X-Mas Steps” throughout the show went from amusing to annoying in about the amount of time it took for him to call out, “Christmas Steps!” the second time. He was clearly getting on Stuart Braithwaite’s tit as well – always dangerous – as the de facto frontman stepped to the edge of the stage at one point to try and stare him down and then later called him out saying that they could should whatever they wanted between songs, but not during. And they weren’t going to play “X-Mas Steps” so just quit it already.
Audience observations and interactions aside, it was certainly one of the more monolithic Mogwai sets I’ve seen, getting fists pumping and pants flapping through much of the set. “Rano Pano” and “Mexican Grand Prix” offered some nimbleness and acceleration to the proceedings, but most of the set list favoured the band’s more lumbering and apocalyptic selections. And while I may seem like I’m all “oh Mogwai again”, that doesn’t mean it’s not still exciting – the main set-closing pair of “Like Herod” and “Glasgow Megasnake” were still as powerful as if i was seeing them for the first time. It’s important to note that even though their albums have have transitioned from visceral to cinematic over time, their live shows still manage to capture both facets magnificently. If Mogwai are indeed dialing down their touring commitments, understand that it’s not because they’ve lost a step on stage. No way.
The National Post also has a review of the show and Clash reports that the band will release a new remix album based on Hardcore entitled A Wretched Virile Lore; this will be their first remix collection since 1998’s Kicking a Dead Pig.
Photos: Mogwai, Odonis Odonis @ The Phoenix – June 18, 2012
MP3: Mogwai – “San Pedro”
MP3: Mogwai – “Rano Pano”
MP3: Mogwai – “The Sun Smells Too Loud”
MP3: Mogwai – “Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home”
MP3: Mogwai – “Tracy”
MP3: Mogwai – “Dial: Revenge”
MP3: Mogwai – “Hunted By A Freak”
MP3: Mogwai – “7:25”
MP3: Odonis Odonis – “Ledged Up”
Video: Mogwai – “San Pedro”
Video: Mogwai – “Mexican Grand Prix”
Video: Mogwai – “How To Be A Werewolf”
Video: Mogwai – “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead”
Video: Mogwai – “Batcat”
Video: Mogwai – “Travel Is Dangerous”
Video: Mogwai – “Friend Of The Night”
Video: Mogwai – “Hunted By A Freak”
Video: Mogwai – “Dial: Revenge”
Video: Odonis Odonis – “Ledged Up”
Video: Odonis Odonis – “Blood Feast”
Video: Odonis Odonis – “Mr. Smith”
Blur have finally fessed up as to what the cryptic clues pointing to something happening on July 2 are all about. Via a video message viewable at DIY, Alex James explains that the band will perform two new songs – “Under The Westway” and “The Puritan” – live on Twitter from a rooftop in London. I don’t know what “live on Twitter” means – maybe Damon will sing 140 characters at a time – but a world premiere like this sounds like a great way to summon the fail whale.
Trailer: Two Door Cinema Club / Beacon
Simian Mobile Disco have long had a DJ date scheduled for The Hoxton on July 12, but they’ve just announced they’ll be back at that same room on December 14 with instruments in tow for a proper live show in support of their new album Unpatterns.
Only just behind last week’s Afghan Whigs announcement as far as concert announcements I’m excited as hell about is confirmation of I Break Horses’ headlining Fall tour, and that’s only because I saw them last month supporting M83. They’ll be at The Drake Underground on September 19, tickets $13 in advance.
It’s hard not to feel a little bad for a label whose highest-profile act keeps giving away all their music as free downloads and refuses to/is incapable of touring. But Sincerely Yours seem perfectly happy to keep enabling jj, who’ve just made their High Summer EP available for free.
ZIP: jj / High Summer
Trailer: Mono / For My Parents