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Godspeed You! Black Emperor

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cover imageWhen I was in secondary school, I was going to go see Godspeed You! Black Emperor but decided against it because I did not know their music, I just liked their name. Soon after I bought Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and realized my error. They never came back and I have been regretting my decision ever since. More recently, I was supposed to go see them at ATP but was scuppered by the weather as heavy snow closed Dublin airport and prevented me going. Luckily the band had no such problems getting to Dublin for their first show in nearly a decade.

 

10 December, Dublin, Ireland.

The word "hope" flashes across the screen and a drone I recognize from "The Dead Flag Blues" fills the room. One by one, Godspeed You! Black Emperor took to the stage and began playing. Layer by layer, a heavy fug of improvised noise comes from the stage. This is nothing like I have heard on any of their records but it is glorious. After at least 20 minutes of this, the opening strains of "Storm" hit like their namesake. I was transported back to my bedroom almost 10 years ago and memories flooded my mind like the waters of a broken dam after a tempest.

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"We used to sleep on the beach here, sleep overnight. They don't do that anymore. Things changed you see. They don't sleep anymore on the beach."

Images of Coney Island flicker on screens behind the band, showing the old amusement parks in their faded grandeur. The film warps and burns as Godspeed thunder through "Monheim;" the visuals and sounds reflecting the sense of loss present in Murray Ostril’s speech presented at the start of the piece. The power that I fell in love with as a teenager resonates now as strongly as ever. What is new is the feeling that things change and not always for the better, the dissolution of my home country into a laughing stock of debt and a dead future feeling like a stinging slap in the face.

The mighty and unbelievably still unreleased "Albanion" picked up from where "Monheim" left off. The spinning percussion and guitars conjuring up exotic images, a whirling dance to a klezmer beat. The music gathers momentum until it lifts off in a soaring flight. "Dead Metheny" from F#A#∞ takes things down a notch before gradually coming to a boil yet again. Hearing this live after so many years was electric, the music galloping like a herd of wild horses towards an unfathomable horizon. The guitars screamed, the audience shook and a feeling that something important was happening gripped me.

This feeling was set in stone as the band came towards the end of their set, playing both sides of Slow Riot for a New Zero Kanada to the delight of everyone there. As they began "Moya," I felt shivers down my spine as they slowed it down slightly, matching the wrong speed I used to play the 12" at before I noticed it was supposed to be played at 45 rpm. This was textbook Godspeed, the slide guitars and violin merging into one before exploding apart again in a shower of sparks.

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"I don't like anything to do with this country's government. I just don't like it, because...they're sneaky, like i said - they're deceitful, they're lying, they're cheats, they rip people off."

The crowd greeted these words of Blaise Bailey Finnegan III with a roaring applause; these are the same people who have very recently begun paying the price for shitty government spending and bad banks. The distrust, the despair and the confusion is something that can escaped here in Ireland. The band seemed to feed on this energy in the same way they fed on the unhinged speech that formed the basis for "BBF3." From its slow and quiet accompaniment to its rising and stratospheric trajectory, the apocalyptic ecstasy ripped through the hall like a hurricane.

"Where are you going? Where are you going?"

The haunting refrain that closed F#A#∞ hung in the room after the group finished. However, the crowd was going nowhere despite of the venue’s curfew. Eventually, the management bowed to the demand and let Godspeed back out for an encore comprised of "Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls" from their last album, Yanqui U.X.O. Shell-shocked and reeling, I joined the queue for my coat, not quite believing that I had finally seen Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 December 2010 12:59  


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