Photo: Joe Gilbertson
The semi-circular setup of amps and pedal boards, the two drum sets, the huge screen set up overhead; it may look impressive, but it does nothing to warn you of the sheer fucking intensity of what is about to take place. “Kanada’s” post-rock legends Godspeed You! Black Emperor are surely the only band in the world who can deliver a wordless, seated performance with the power of several explosions.
As the band take to the stage, they pick up their instruments, take their place and begin to add to the colossal hurricane of their opening piece ‘Hope Drone’, an ever growing crescendo of whirling, spiralling noise and droning. It’s almost impossible to estimate how long this lasts for – ten minutes? twenty? – before they bring it to its climax, letting the sound bleed out into their first recorded piece of the evening, 2012’s dark, riff-oriented ‘Mladic’.
Much of the setlist is fairly predictable with ‘Mladic’ being followed by a slightly abridged rendition of their most recent record, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, with some of the lengthier droning sections being cut down. The album has never felt more like one concise piece of fantastic songwriting than it does live. From the second track ‘Lambs’ Breath’ onwards it is a spectacle of ever-building, dark, sinister and uplifting journey of soundscapes perfectly accompanied by the film projections overhead.
The opening sample of the band’s first undisputed classic of the evening, ‘Sleep’ – rambling old man Murray Ostril describing Coney Island’s heyday – has the audience in a state of audible astonishment. Unfortunately, only the first movement of the piece, ‘Monheim’ is played, which despite being one of the most captivating parts of show – led by Efrin Menuck’s screwdriver guitar playing, soaring, beautiful chord progressions and more perfectly fitting projection – leaves it feeling somewhat unfinished.
A lengthy new composition – which starts off somewhat underwhelming after ‘Sleep’s dizzying highs but builds up to the sort emotional climax only Godspeed You! Black Emperor can deliver – and ‘The Sad Mafioso’ from F♯ A♯ ∞’s ‘East Hastings’ close the show. The set may have been a little too weighted towards the band’s darker, more apocalyptic moments for some, but Godspeed You! Black Emperor do apocalyptic well, and tonight they do it better.
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