Celtic Connections: Mogwai / RM Hubbert @ Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 28 January
As much a charismatic banter machine as he is an emotionally charged singer-songwriter, RM Hubbert has the vast hall completely captivated and respectfully silent (except when he's making us laugh) with a set demonstrating his talent for both technical flamenco guitar playing and weary balladry. His banter ranges from the hilarious and bizarre (non-sequiturs involving Girls Aloud's Nicola Roberts, pube shaving) to extremely honest and heartfelt (depression, the deaths of good friends). His rendition of For Joe, from 2012's SAY award-winning Thirteen Lost & Found, is a subtly powerful highlight, but the set gets really special when Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat joins him at the end for the anecdotal Car Song.
Mogwai could call it quits now and leave an impressive legacy behind them, but the stellar Rave Tapes proves they're still discovering new avenues whilst retaining their core sound. The set opens with Heard About You Last Night, the sleepy lead track from that record. They continue to subtly promote its release (the ominous slow-build / hyperactive synth assault of Remurdered is jaw-dropping), but the local legends never forget what got them here, treating old-timers to the sparkly loud-quiet dynamics of Young Team's Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home and the gorgeous, vocally-driven Cody.
The remainder of the set's material is culled from relatively recent releases: I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead is a sure-fire high point; its swirling guitar textures completely engulf the auditorium. The false-start to Mexican Grand Prix actually comes as a relief, reminding the audience that these are indeed human beings conjuring up these grand sounds.
For the encore, they revisit well-worn ground with a triple-threat of Hunted By A Freak, Auto Rock, and the deafening Mogwai Fear Satan. From festival tents to nearly-arenas, Mogwai don't always get the opportunity to channel their earth-shaking catalogue through a PA impressive enough to cope with their widescreen ambitions; tonight they grab it with both hands.