Event / Movie Review – Burning (Brattle Theater)

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mogwai_live Event / Movie Review - Burning (Brattle Theater)

Hate ’em or love ’em, but Mogwai are practically a household name by now. While they were not the first band to play instrumental/post-rock music, they were definitely among the most critically acclaimed ones, along with the likes of Sigur Ros, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky.

Much like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd and King Crimson in the 70s, those bands came to symbolize excess in its modern form – from long guitar solos to instrumental passages. And, of course, the bands of that kind are often accused of the same things that some of aforementioned prog rockers were usually accused of – at best, their music sounds like something that only highly trained guitar virtuosos can pull off, while at worst it sounds like self-indulgent, pompous and overblown mess.

“Burning” – a concert movie about Mogwai – showcases both sides of the band.

Shot entire in black in white, the documentary focuses on the band’s three-night residency at the Williamsburg Hal (NYC) in April of 2009. While there’s plenty of shots of New York night streets, overall “The Burning” contains nothing more than a footage of the concert itself and the band’s interaction with the audience. There’s hardly any conversation or sounds that made it into the picture (outside of the screaming audience) –  even when at the band’s practice the sound is barely audible.

Since there’s no standard narrative, “The Burning” would hardly make for an exciting introduction to the band for newcomers. Still, viewed as a concert movie only – its certainly nicely done, even if the band occasionally tend to indulge in overtly solos or keyboard parts. In the end, its worthy to remember that all of their faults, Mogwai is also capable of producing music that could knock you off your feet and leave you breathless (i.e. – “Batcat” / “Hunted By The Freak”) and that’s saying something in a world full of plastic pop/rock stars.

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