It had been a couple years since Los Angeles was graced with a riveting Mogwai performance with their last show at the Orpheum Theatre back in May of 2009. After some heavy anticipation with the release of their 2010 concert film, Burning, and their exceptional new LP, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, L.A. was itching to see the Glasgow masterminds tantalize our ears with their extraordinary guitar symphonies.

On Tuesday, May 10, 2011 fans of the instrumental rockers came together at the Mayan Theater to witness one of the most powerful and engaging Mogwai sets ever (at least that was my experience). Although each Mogwai performance is unique and a most pleasurable occurrence, this particular concert was a very special performance. Not only is the Mayan a gorgeous intimate venue, but it was also lead guitarist, Stuart Braithwaite’s 35th birthday. The entire band and crowd was in ultimate good spirits and the vibe was infectiously positive. Stuart was of frequent smiles during his set and put on an exhilarating performance.

But before we were enchanted by the powerful orchestrations of Mogwai, fellow Glasgow mates, Errors, opened up for the boys. Also, an experimental instrumental band, this four-piece seemed a bit timid on the mic as they confessed this was their first time in L.A. Once the boys began to blast out their eclectic sound, all timidness melted away. Errors played a variety of experimental electro fusing guitars, drums, keyboards and a vibrant collection of rhythms and beats. They have a wide pallet of sound where some tunes played with Latin-almost-reggaeton beats and others were bass heavy guitar jams with a tinge of techno or lulled you with soothing melodies. These guys were all over the place! The crowd seemed to have enjoyed Errors and their interesting waves of sound. I would like to hear them add some vocals to their music. I think it would make their live act more engaging where fans will want to dance and sing along. Although compelling, not everyone can pull a Mogwai.

Taking the stage a little over 9 p.m., Mogwai opened up with the beautiful and serene track, “White Noise,” the first song off their latest album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. The crowd immediately cheered the moment the subtle guitar chords came into play. It set a tranquil and inviting tone that quickly got the crowd fixated on Mogwai. Keeping a soothing ambiance with 2006’s piano-driven “Friend Of The Night,” Mogwai quickly flipped the switch when the amp heavy intro of “Rano Panofuzzed it’s way through the militia of Marshall and Fender amps arrayed across the stage. A gorgeous and powerful song, but my how the bass vibrations were tickling my nose!

Although Mogwai played a healthy selection of songs from their new album, they didn’t stray from their old greats. Closing up their set, they blasted out a fierce heavy guitar armada with “Batcat.” This song is so damn sick! And even radder live. The boys held stern faces as they worked their magic on their respective guitars and macheteed through some mean metal riffs. I was thoroughly impressed with stand-in drummer James Hamilton. He was/is the drummer of the opening band Errors and was hitting the skins in place of Martin Bulloch’s absence. James definitely honed up to his chops on “Batcat” and his entire set with Mogwai.

As the band left the stage and the crowd began to cheer for an encore, Mogwai appeared from the darkness ready to slay us with two more songs. It was interesting to see “George Square Thatcher Death Party” live because it’s one of the very few Mogwai songs with vocals and a track off their new album you can dance to. Even though the vocals led by guitarist/keyboardist, John Cummings are minimal and distorted with a vocoder, they still add a compelling element to this hip track.

Making their grand finale with the closing number from their 1997 debut, Mogwai left us with almost 20 minutes of bliss when the evocative “Fear Satan” shone before us. This song is surreal in its beauty and left us in a state of catharsis as chills ran up our spines. The emotional magnitude of this song is immense and something just straight up out-of-this-world. As each band member left the stage one-by-one, playing with various loops and effects before they made their exit. Fans we’re gifted with the utmost satisfaction of what a live show should look and sound like. If only all musicians can be this marvelous, the world would be a much happier place (at least for me).

Words: Sandra Burciaga

Photography: Ryan Mulvey


Mogwai Setlist:

White Noise
Friend Of The Night
Rano Piano
I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
Death Rays
I Know You Are But What Am I?
San Pedro
How To Be A Werewolf
Mexican Grand Prix
New Paths To Helicon, Pt. 1
You’re Lionel Richie

George Square Thatcher Death Party
Fear Satan