Mogwai @ Ex Theater Roppongi (Mar. 9th, 2015)

The Mogwai Experience
Live Report : “The Mogwai Experience” @ Ex Theater Roppongi 2015.03.09


I’ve been seeing a lot of 20-year-old bands lately; Back Drop Bomb, Kemuri and next month, Jurassic 5. Being able to last 20 years in the music industry, to achieve success, to grow together as a group of musicians is no small feat. Monday’s show at Ex Theater Roppongi saw another band crossing the 20 year mark in Scotland’s Mogwai.

Their 20 year journey has taken them through uncharted territory. Mogwai’s brand of rock has always been hard for critics and observers to pigeon-hole. They’ve been associated with post-rock, shoegazing, math rock, art rock and more recently krautrock. They challenge concepts of rock and roll and traditional song structure in their largely instrumental expressions. As such, they attract a different kind of music fan. The Mogwai fan is not looking to sing and dance along to catchy tunes or idolise band members. These are fans looking for an experience in the music, to be taken on a journey through a universal, wordless expression. The band has been quoted as saying, “I think most people are not used to having no lyrics to focus on. Lyrics are a real comfort to some people. I guess they like to sing along and when they can’t do that with us they can get a bit upset.”

MogwaiCategorise Mogwai’s music however you want, one thing to be sure is they play it loud. Their live show really deserves to be heard on a system capable of full dynamic range. This range of highs and lows, especially in a theater or hall setting, combined with a proper sound system is really what makes the Mogwai experience memorable. Roppongi’s barely year-old EX Theater was the perfect showcase for such an experience. I had seen Mogwai once before at an outdoor festival and it just didn’t have the excitement of other bands at the festival that purposely elicit a more raucous response. Other bands may play to or for an audience, while Mogwai plays for art’s sake.

Mogwai done right is an experience that batters your eardrums and shocks your system with intense contrasts between delicate moments of silence leading into sudden bursts of noise. While it is something to experience, there is very little the band offers in terms of a visual aspect of the live show. Listening to Mogwai at home or on the go, there is always more stimulation. In the live setting the music is the only thing to focus on. Aside from a brief “thank you” and “arigatou” the band said almost nothing. Similarly there is a lack of audience participation that you generally see at other rock shows. This is something that takes getting used to and under subpar conditions like my previous festival experience, Mogwai live can be fairly disengaging.

MogwaiHowever when you give yourself to Mogwai, when the venue and the sound system is up to the challenge, it’s an experience like no other. Through hard driving guitars, brutal snare assaults, through echoing noise, blinding distortion, blistering highs and frightening lows, the Mogwai live experience can take even the seasoned concert-goer to places they didn’t know existed. Their set worked through Mogwai’s 20 years with a focus on more recent tunes such as, “How to be a Werewolf”, “Remurdered”, “We’re no here” and finishing with their usual closer, the devastating “Mogwai Fear Satan”.

The Tokyo crowd for their part, free from being ordered when to cheer and dance from a noisy front man, reacted to Mogwai in all manners. Some cheered and clapped loudly, some stood and did nothing, others swayed, eyes closed, taking it in. Through it all, waves of soundscapes washed in and out, trickled down at out feet below, then crashed all around us smashing the theater to bits. Mogwai left us after a single encore of two songs, ears still ringing and hearts still racing from the ocean of sound that is the Mogwai experience.

— set list —

Heard About You Last Night / I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead / Travel Is Dangerous / Hunted by a Freak / How to Be a Werewolf / Rano Pano / Christmas Steps / Teenage Exorcists / Deesh / Remurdered / 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong / Mexican Grand Prix

— encore —
Auto Rock / Mogwai Fear Satan

–>Photo Report

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Taio Konishi
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James Mallion

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