MOGWAI at Lee's Palace, May 27. Tickets: $16. Attendance: 500. Rating: NNNN
The decision to put a punish-ingly loud band like Mogwai into the relatively intimate confines of Lee's Palace should not be taken lightly.As the Scottish quintet plowed through 90 minutes of delicately sculpted, incredibly forceful instrumental rock, fans began to drop like flies, falling to the ground in heaps or staggering, pale and shaken-looking, toward the back of the club. Whether the fainting spells were brought on by the heat in the over-packed club or by the extreme volume at which Mogwai played wasn't clear, but the two made a lethal combination.
There was precious little flash to the group's performance, with frontman Stuart Braithwaite looking almost embarrassed about standing in the middle of the stage and occasionally singing. Heads down and virtually steering clear of last year's Rock Action disc in favour of older, and newer, material, Mogwai made up for style and variety with force.
Each song was an epic, built around violent shifts in dynamics. There were eerily quiet moments when Braithwaite's frail guitar lines were interrupted by ice tinkling in glasses, and moments of guitar aggression when, even with earplugs in, the volume was apocalyptic.
By the time Mogwai reached their traditional closer, the 20-minute My Father My King, the brutality seemed almost routine. Had they played any longer, the entire audience might have collapsed from sheer exhaustion.