Last night after I got back from Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s show at the Vogue Theatre I blurbed on Twitter that “Godspeed You! Black Emperor were monumental. 2.5 hours of world ending bombast.” And that’s kind of almost all I want to say. But the occasion seems to call for more.
Firstly, it was Godspeed’s first show on home soil (or in North America for that matter) in eight years. Secondly, I had missed my only opportunity to see the band when they were last in Vancouver in 2000. So for years I’ve jealously heard the stories of Godspeed’s powerful live show and downloaded live recordings in the failed hope of trying to simulate some sort of personal experience. And I wasn’t kidding myself, I really didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to see Godspeed on stage.
But then last night happened. From 8:50 until 11:15, Godspeed You! Black Emperor were transcendental and once I got comfortable in one of the horrible Vogue seats in the orchestra, I got lost in a live performance in a way that very, very seldom happens. Every single “song” was rendered more powerfully than their recorded counterparts and you could actually feel the music moving through you. Coupled with the eerie and at times apocalyptic projections*, I felt completely immersed all night and when the show ended I could scarcely believe it hadn’t just begun.
The set drew very heavily from 2000′s Lift Yr. Skinny Fists including the opening pieces which were the only “bright” notes in the entire show. Once the powerful Gathering Storm ended, the rest of the set soundtracked a landscape in decay. Albanian, a “new” song played a lot in 2003 which has yet to be recorded, was a menacing hell-beast and indicates that if the band do head into the studio this spring (as rumoured), the fruits of those sessions will be some of Godspeed’s most powerful material.
As the show slowly moved to its final epic statements, the band finally reached back to their first album with the portentous Dead Metheny and its most recent with Rockets Fall On Rocket Falls. Dead Metheny, in particular, was delivered with such intensity that I almost felt pinned down in my seat. The final piece of the night was BBF3 from the Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP. A fitting closer as it encapsulates Godspeed’s aesthetic perfectly: a field recording of a man becoming enraged, a slow build, and a thunderous climax that laid waste to any last shred of operating ear drums in the Vogue.
Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
World Police And Friendly Fire
Rockets Fall On Rocket Falls
* The projections were actually projected from two old school film projectors the likes of which I hadn’t seen since elementary school. The projectionist was busy all night, draped in reels of film as he set up each piece and even used his hands and a fishbowl at times to further distort the images.
The most pointless live shots I’ve ever taken of a band?
Some random notes about the gig:
- The setlist was the exact setlist the band played at their first gig back after the hiatus this past December in England.
- All the other songs the band have been playing on this tour are: Moya, Gamelan (another “new” one like Albanian), 09-15-00 (Outro), The Sad Mafioso, She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer [...], and The Cowboy. Not going to lie, would have loved to have heard Moya and/or The Sad Mafioso last night.
If you’re keen to hear a recent version of Albanian, you can download a version from a show last month in Amsterdam.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Albanian