Thu, Feb 17, 2011, 00:00

Olympia Theatre, Dublin

There is a much-told story about the late John Peel and Mogwai that is too good not to be true. Many moons ago, Peel apparently played one of their tracks on his show and when the epic guitars were reduced down to barely a whisper, something of a Mogwai trademark, some automatic BBC system awoke from its slumber, thought the low sound levels meant something had gone awry, and immediately unleashed a burst of emergency Spice Girlson an unsuspecting listenership.

About four tracks into Mogwai’s set at the Olympia, that story seems apt. Having opened in somewhat subdued form with several tracks from their new album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, the band then roll out veteran track Mogwai Fear Satan.

Crowd noise and chatter are drowning out the serene central part of barely-there guitars and delicate washes of delayed effects, so much so that guitarist Stuart Braithwaite is shaking his head in frustration and trying to kill several rows with vintage Glaswegian stares. But where hard-man looks fail, the all-out Scottish post-rock offensive of Mogwai Fear Satan’soutro happily succeeds, and the crowd is left reeling. This is what Mogwai do best. The new album might have some more poppy departures, and it is predictable that the loudest roars of the night are for old favourites. When the almost bluesy slow bass hand of Helicon 1is played halfway through the set, there is a collective intake of breath.

On stage there is little to look at; a group of men-with-instruments and well-marshalled platoons of effect pedals. But then they open the floodgates of sound. Cathedral-sized chords crash into the venue, guitars soar upwards, bass and drums pummel the front rows with remorseless precision, and keys and effects fill in what hairline cracks are left behind.

A slow start followed by an assault on the senses then, with moments of overwhelming bliss and beauty, that strikes a crowd dumb and leaves them stumbling for superlatives.

– Laurence Mackin