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LIVE! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

December 15, 2010 by  

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LIVE! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

ARTIST: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
SUPPORT: Dead Rat Orchestra
VENUE, TOWN: The Troxy, London
DATE: 13th December 2010

FIVE WORD REVIEW: Hope in spite of Hopelessness

MAIN REVIEW: Since 2003, Godspeed have been teetering on being declared legally dead. This year’s close sees their triumphant return to the live circuit accompanied by their trusted associates, Dead Rat Orchestra. So let bells ring throughout the land, Post-Rock is returned.

Dead Rat Orchestra

There’s a deep, Oriental edge to their heavy percussion, quite wild and menacing, which makes the performance seem like we’re about to go on a small panning tour into the heart of Colonel Kurtz’s temple. Except when the strings kick in and it suddenly sounds a bit like a lament for the homeland as mournful immigrants sail from famine stricken shores into the new world. So yeah, complicated imagery. It’s pretty loose and slap-dash sort of stuff, but in a good way. Incorporating a wide range of suitably ridiculous music making methods, it seems like we’re being invited on an exploration of how to make music more than anything else. Unfortunately, the night finds them suffering from some fairly obnoxious technical issues means and their set is lamentably cut short and we don’t get to delve as fully into their bizarre and arcane soundscape as would be liked.


They announce themselves slowly, sound and a deep red light gradually segueing in the band as they take up their instruments, until they accelerate seamlessly into ‘Storm’, quite frankly one of the most beautiful songs ever written. True to its namesake, it perfectly captures the roiling intensity of a thunderstorm; crashing waves of sound sweeping out over the audience into a wild crescendo, before dying slowly back down into that gentle lull that follows a storm’s passing.

The band themselves take no part of the spotlight, in fact their silhouettes are barely illuminated by the sharp glare of the stage lights; they simply flow on into their next number without the slightest preamble.

In a sense this is like a night at the Orchestra, the personalities of the performers don’t matter – only the music. It’s music as an expression, music as a narrative of images and feelings, a sort of sonic hieroglyphics. The audience doesn’t erupt into a riot of dancing and noise, they simply stand by quietly and listen. But this doesn’t make this a performance without passion, there’s an intense amount of emotion being poured out through their instruments. You can close your eyes and find yourself completely transported, rocking in a sea of sound. And the sound itself… mournful yet jubilant, anguished yet defiant. There’s a desperate apocalyptic feel to everything, yet also a sense of new beginning, a search for something better.

To accompany their sound, an old-fashioned projector beams a wonderful kaleidoscope of rapidly shifting imagery above the heads of the performers. Flowers twisting in the breeze, old dilapidated cabins, a forest of vomiting smoke stacks, snap-shots of old technical blueprints. It all comes together to help express the emotions behind the notes without ever out-rightly saying anything.

Highlights included the aforementioned ‘Storm’, while the eccentric vitriol of ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan, III’ naturally elicits a great response from the crowd; the broken polemic of its vox-popper is just so utterly perfect, despite not having an ounce of rhyme or cadence to it. The only flies in the ointment were a lack of ‘Dead Flag Blues’ in the set-list and the sheer size of the venue – GY!BE is a band that really does sound better the more intimate the location, but these are small annoyances – this really is something uniquely beautiful and you’d be an utter fool to miss them before the tides drag them back across the Atlantic again.





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