mogwai @ openluchttheater, rivierenhof, antwerp, belgium
thanks to christophe
friend of the night
i love you, i'm going to blow up your school
hunted by a freak
i'm jim morrison, i'm dead
thank you space expert
2 rights make 1 wrong
we're no here
support from motek
the openluchttheater rivierenhof is a great venue for a concert like this. mogwai was the last in a series of summer gigs here, and they shut it down in style.
supporting tonight were motek, a belgian rock band, who did quite a good job in warming up. the mathy drumming, soaring guitar lines and downtuned singing created an atmosphere in which our scottish friends were a logical apotheose.
it took a while before they started out - we saw john and barry fiddling with their gear, with the latter looking busy to figure something out on his powerbook. but then as soon as john walked off stage, the lights went out, and the band immediately jumped on the podium with stuart saying the classic "hello, we're mogwai from glasgow, scotland". what followed was an excellent set with very well brought new work, as well as some surprising old tracks. 'scotland's shame', which already is a new favourite of mine, droned beautifully, as did 'thank you space expert'; the audience was even more quiet during these songs. 'friend of the nighthad some technical issues on john's guitar (and it did do something to the sound of the track, it was less "broad"), but other than that, it went virtually perfect. during ike herodand atcat some fierce winds came up, which left us wondering if mogwai had started adding heavy duty fans to their rider. needless to say, these two songs blew everyone away.
it was the first time i saw them playing 'ithica 27o9', with dominic and john switching guitars, and they played it like it was a new song, full of energy and quite enjoying themselves. suddenly, i felt very warm and fuzzy. 'new paths to helicon pt. 2' was also very, very beautiful. it was another moment of utter silence among the audience, as the band played it very quiet. i also saw quite some couples holding hands and singing along to 'cody'. an energetic '2 rights make 1 wrong' and the metal killing 'we're no here' showed us why people should see as many mogwai gigs as possible: they keep on getting better and better. the set ended in an extremely loud noise fest and an inflatable cushion fight between the audience and john. wonderful.
i heard from the crew that dominic wasn't wearing any ear plugs (the rest of the band did), and that although the rivierenhof has a 90 db sound restriction, they asked for 109 db, and they peaked at 120. the police called but they didn't show up. nice to know too that the loudest part (noise ending) had none of the sound system of the venue in use; all of it came from their amps. and it was loud.
mogwai have a nice line in great venues. they give their acolytes the opportunity to see them in the grandeur of the royal albert hall, the back-to-roots basement-dive-vibe of the ica, the faded seaside funpalace of camber sands, and most recently for me the open air stateliness (in surroundsound!) of somerset house. so it was to antwerp for a long weekend that culminated in mogwai playing the open-air amphitheatre (openluchttheater) of the rivierenhof, a large forested park to the east of the city.
mogwai bring a particularly wet and windy august to a close by laying on arguably the best ’summer’ weekend of the year - antwerp weekend (priority version). unfortunately, after a couple of days spent sampling the bourgondian multitude of belgian beers in glorious sunshine, rain is forecast for the evening of mogwai’s performance. however on arrival in the park that threat looks far off, and although the clouds gather with purpose, support act motek play to a glorious sunset - the sky an apocalyptic orange over the tall trees that surround this superb venue. there’s booze, food and even blow-up cushions to aid our comfort, it’s just a shame that there is a mogwai-inconducive sound-level restriction on the openluchttheater’s pa.
as the band launch into opener “the precipice” the first drops of rain are felt, prompting the better-prepared amongst us to scrabble for their micropacked ponchos. but murphy’s law is repealed after just a few minutes, and although a few more droplets fall during another new song - “scotland’s shame” - it is only during the tram ride back to town that the ground properly gets a soaking.
new songs are interspersed with highlights from mogwai’s thirteen-year existence, and i’m particularly happy to hear ancient artifact "ithica 27o9" played again, guitarist john cummings and bassist dominic aitchison swapping instruments and the band concisely displaying their vice-like grasp of dynamics. they’re all obviously enjoying themselves a lot more than the night previous, a festival in utrecht where they played in front of 500 babyshambles fans - stuart braithwaite describes it as a “dispiriting experience” (anti-babyshambles boo follows :)
during the guitar-and-lights assault of “like herod”, whose second half usually feels like the sudden arrival of a fierce storm, the wind picks up considerably, swirling through the dark looming trees that encircle us. new single “batcat” follows, crunching guitars propelled along by the gusting wind, and is easily my favourite of the new songs that i hear for the first time tonight. every mogwai album needs its heavyweight anchor, and like “we’re no here”, “ratts of the capital”, “you don’t know jesus”, and the heaven-and-hell ”my father, my king” before it, this for me is mogwai at their best, when they wield their guitars as weapons and threaten to bring it all down around us.
as soon as we hit the eye-of-the-storm with “helicon 2? and a cracked & fragile “cody”, the wind dies away just as quickly as it had appeared…
the aforementioned mountain-mover “we’re no here” is the last song of the night and ends in their customary feedback frenzy, the massed amps taking over from the restrained pa and giving us some proper mogwai volume. john, always last to leave the stage (as the man charged with putting part chimp down on tape he must have armour-plated ears), is hailed with inflatable cushions - he ‘fights’ back, and then it’s over, and we’re in a dark forest at night. into the trees…
photos by sebastien marciak
photos by sven de preter