Certain bands have an air of anticipation affixed to their name. You don’t always expect glitzy, show-stopping stunts but you know you’re going to be in for a treat in some way. Mogwai is one such band.

Having graced the prog-rock scene for well over two decades, their two nights at Manchester’s Albert Hall were bound to draw big crowds so I head down to the second of the nights on Sunday, knowing I was going to be in for an evening of what my dad calls “real music”.

The night starts off as it means to go on with a wall of sound in the form of first support group Mugstar. I immediately feel at home with the crash of the drum kit and the relentless noise that ensues. Watching Manchester band Mugstar I’m struck by the realisation that drummers really do drive a band. It’s a reality all musicians will know is true – screw up the drums and the sound can fall apart – but never before have I been more aware. The four piece (I’m not sure if this is their usual setup if I’m honest, having never seen them before, but it works regardless) centres around the drummer. He takes everyone on little journeys through the kinds of tracks that make you a bit unsure on whether they’re finished a couple times before they actually end – they duck and dive, rarely looking at the audience standing in the dark in front of them but keeping them on the edge of their seats regardless.

It starts to feel like a mini festival as the hands set up for the next band, Beak, and I must admit their reputation precedes them so I’m excited. Again, they take to the stage quietly, which leaves me a little surprised considering they’re sporting Geoff Barrow of Portishead in the lead, but I’m intrigued regardless. Their synths create the type of sound that reverberates through your stomach and the simplicity really works with the grandness of the Hall so I’m left, once again, feeling like I’m really at home. I love this venue, I love prog rock and everything that goes with it and this crowd is wide open.

We’re fast approaching Mogwai’s entrance and again, they walk on with little sound. Although their stage setting is a little more exciting – enough rigging to light up Buckingham Palace I reckon – it’s still simple. Adorned in typical 90’s rock-wear (including an incredible The Cure shirt for one of the band members – who, if you’re reading please tell me where you found it cos MATE!) they’re up and in before we even know it.

They crash through songs from 2002’s Happy Songs for Happy People (‘Hunted by a Freak’ and ‘I Know You Are But What Am I?’ get arms and heads up) and they’re straight into songs from new album Every Country’s Sun. ‘Party In The Dark’ in particular has had rave reviews but as I listen to it live I know it’s more than that. Mogwai are the epitome of how music touches people.

Everyone usually gets so transfixed with words it’s kind of breathtaking to be in a room with ‘just’ music (I use the word ‘just’ there as an idea of perception rather than the reality of what is happening in front of me as I watch these greats at work, you understand). The detail, the dissonant guitar interspersed with the odd lyrics is just a treat for the ears and I’m genuinely grateful to be here as they work through ‘Crossing The Road’, ‘Don’t Believe in Fife’ and others from the new album. The Hawk is Howling, working through their back catalogue from ten years ago, also makes an appearance with ‘I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead’ a definite crowd-pleaser.

The show comes to an exhausting end having had four guitars and a drummer on stage for the majority of the evening (yep, that’s a lot of amps) and everyone’s transfixed. They walk off, traditional feedback as they exit keeping my heart warm with old school rock.

And then they’re back for the highlights. ‘New Paths To Helicon’ from Ten Rapid is a gem of a song. You can see the crowd that’s left physically relaxing, the guitar is so sweet and soft. Braithwaite spends lots of the end sitting or down on his knees at the pedals, totally owned by the music they are creating. Then we’re treated to ‘We’re No Here’ and suddenly it’s over.

I said it before but the evening does genuinely feel like a mini festival of delights. A celebration of real music, real musicians and craftspeople. It’s a pleasure to be invited to watch such talent. Cheers everyone.

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