Mogwai and Balam Acab at Metro | Photos and Review
The mood was celebratory at Metro on Wednesday night, as Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai brought their North American tour to a close in Chicago. "It's one of our favorite places to play," guitarist Stuart Braithwaite noted during the set, alluding to the near-mythical status that the venue holds among midwestern fans of the group. Though the night was devoid of the 20-minute sonic experiments which characterized the group's last visit, their larger-than-life instrumental offerings did not disappoint.
Backed by projections of rippling water and billowing smoke, the ambient electronics of Balam Acab set the evening's atmospheric tone. Situated behind an array of samplers and blinking lights, the Pennsylvania native layered swirling synths over plodding beats, all inhabited by what sounded like a ghostly chipmunk choir.
Entering to the subdued bass strums of "Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home," Mogwai commenced a set which reached into all corners of their expansive catalog. An abundance of steady, building arrangements characterized the band's selections, expanding simple progressions into towering climaxes. Members of the quintet moved fluidly between instruments, augmenting the ragged roar of "Rano Pano" with a three-guitar onslaught and layering delicate piano chords amid droning guitars on "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead." Elsewhere, keyboardist Barry Burns' modulated vocals lent an eerie ambience to "Killing All The Flies," turning the track into an otherworldly lament punctuated by one of John Cummings' flailing guitar solos.
A short encore found the band back onstage with gifts in tow. "A Scotsman is offering you alcohol, this is a big deal," a beaming Braithwaite deadpanned as the remainder of the group's Patron was distributed to the front row. The quasi-metal chug of "Batcat" closed out the night—much to the delight of all remaining headbangers—crescendoing in a cacophony of squealing guitars. Though the live setting stripped away some of the band's more subtle intricacies, Mogwai's enduring cinematic scope survived the translation. The Scots doled out ample servings of musical catharsis, leaving us to wonder when they'll be hitting the studio or—at the very least—renewing their visas.