December 13, 2010, London, England – Only Godspeed You! Black Emperor could get away with opening a gig with fifteen minutes of sheer noise and feedback (‘Hope Drone’) with a super 8 film intermittingly flashing the word “hope” across the backdrop. Perhaps it’s because we knew what was coming, and perhaps we allowed for a certain amount of indulgence seeing as how it was only their fifth show in nearly ten years. Personally, I think it’s a bit of both, but as the noise led way to masterpieces ‘Storm’ and ‘Sleep’ from Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, I immediately understood that I was in for a treat.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor are in the UK to curate an All Tomorrow’s Parties show and have been headlining a handful of shows around the country. For anyone who has followed their career and has had to endure the massive hiatus (with some pretty amazing projects in between), this was a very welcome event. They have somewhat of a legendary status here, selling out all of the shows quickly and creating a large buzz. Part of the hype may stem from the fact that the band are somewhat mysterious, always playing in near complete darkness and almost never giving interviews.
The venue for the evening was the Troxy, which is a glorious art deco theatre in London’s east end. The room is absolutely made for music, as the sound was perfect. Godspeed You! Black Emperor were as loud as usual, playing for an incredible two and a half hours, with only the occasional musical interlude leading to the next movement. We were treated to a collection of songs from their four albums including ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan III’ from Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada and ‘Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls’ from Yanqui U.X.O.. Their music in live form is aggressive and challenging but always rewarding with bursts of sheer beauty that seem to come from nowhere. Each piece was formatted around a film like a mini soundtrack, which occasionally led to some interesting effects; smoke and fire coming from a factory gave the illusion that the guitars were a fire engine siren.
It was also interesting to see the crowd that gathered to see the show. There were those of us who were around for the first incarnation of the band, and it was also great to see a huge proportion of those who were certainly too young to be around then. I can remember what it felt like to first hear the vocal and violins on ‘The Dead Flag Blues’ years ago and it seems so fitting that a new generation is feeling the same thing. It just proves how relevant their music still is.