Live review: MONO and Alcest @ Classic Grand

Joint headliners MONO and Alcest both formed in 1999, the former in Tokyo and the latter in Bagnols-sur-Cèze. Whereas MONO have a prolific discography behind them of innovative post-rock, Alcest are renowned for pioneering the ‘blackgaze’ genre, a lush combination of black metal and shoegaze. Both bands are forces in their own right and perfect to co-headline this much-anticipated show of sensational alternative music.

There was a somewhat unexpected support act in Portuguese sludge/post-rock quintet Sinistro. I absolutely live for the day when I am not surprised to see a good female vocalist front a heavy band, serving as an integral part of the band, rather than conventional eye candy. Patrícia Andrad’s erratic movements and astonishing vocals provided a shot of corybantic energy much needed to the band’s overall sound. Bizarrely nu-metal at times, with an overtly loud bass tone and constantly crashing cymbals, Sinistro performed a nevertheless blistering set of climatic songs, setting the tone for an all-absorbing show.

Stéphane Paut, known primarily as Neige, is the permanently shy and endearing frontman of Alcest. He walked out sheepishly in his Cocteau Twins shirt and trademark peacock feather necklace for a brief soundcheck. Without further ado, he was joined by drummer Winterhalter, bassist Indria, and guitarist Zero, and they blasted straight into Kodama, the title track from their universally-acclaimed latest album, into a flowing set.

Through instrumentals, Neige smiled pleasantly at every person in the front row. He seemed painfully aware of his own stage presence, hence his constant blushes.

Much thought is put into Alcest’s live performances, evident in the beautiful stage lighting, tied to the signature colours of the band’s past four albums: soft blue for Ecailles de Lune; green for Les voyages de l’Âme; blinding white for Shelter; and pink and purple for Kodama.

The entire band were obviously overwhelmed with the rapturous reception they received from the Glaswegian crowd, Neige repeating “Thank you” into the microphone.

Délivrance marked the end of Alcest’s set, as they were wreathed in celestial white for a heavenly slow song entirely devoid of metal influence. They truly were the band of the night, if not for Neige’s charisma then for the seamless recreation of songs that are like the soundtrack to wonderful dreams.

MONO have defied most standards of music with their own brand of post-rock, pouring distortion and reverb into compositions that are as complex as they are cathartic. For one, they have had the same line-up since inception, a rare feat in music.

An androgynous quartet, all with shaggy black hair and avant-garde black clothes, they were very serious in expression, from what could be seen by someone barely scraping five feet tall over a sea of people. Tamaki Kunishi was the only member of the band more often than not on her feet. Despite a desire for absolute silence, the loud, drunk people at the back did not seem to get the memo, tarnishing the otherwise magnificent atmosphere.

MONO make no exchanges with the audience; they just dutifully provide an incredible, abiding stream of sonic vision after sonic vision, mostly from Requiem for Hell.