Published Nov 26, 2014Known for creating heavy post-rock tracks the length of miniature symphonies, Montreal-based titans Godspeed You! Black Emperor have grown into one of the most captivating and influential bands of the past two decades. After emerging from a hiatus back in 2012 with their critically acclaimed album Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, the eight-piece band have since been touring relentlessly, gathering hordes of new fans and media attention along the way. Each member emerged, one by one, from the wings of the Theatre Granada yesterday evening (November 25), as a looming drone took hold of the expectant Sherbrooke crowd.
While the opening for "Hope Drone" began to build, 8mm film projections illuminated the background, the word "hope" scratched directly onto the film reel itself. Paired with archival footage of faces, medical documents and hand-written letters, a powerful visual narrative was pieced together as Godspeed built a fluid and unfaltering wall of sound. Near the end of the 30-minute song, acid began to disintegrate the black and white images as the band launched into a full-on assault, the music rising, swelling and crashing, walking that fine, sacred line between control and chaos.
While Godspeed's studio albums are hailed for their brilliant compositions and technical mastery, their live shows are a different breed of experience altogether. From the haunting "Mladic" off their latest album, to their performance of "Gathering Storm" near the end of the show, the soaring, dissonance-heavy guitar riffs and otherworldly drones demonstrated just how much power one group could pack into a live set.
Looking out into the audience only once or twice, and rarely exchanging glances between themselves, the band functioned like a well-oiled machine, knowing exactly where and when to be within the confines of each elaborate, sprawling track. Throughout the two-hour journey, the crowd remained absolutely silent, aside from uproarious applause at the rare moments in between songs. Many in the crowd stood rigid, eyes closed, head bobbing as if in prayer as the music made the air noticeable heavy — some were even crying from the weight of it all as the band sipped on their water and wine.
Through visual messages of political dissent (with phrases like "Books Not Bombs" and "Take Back the Future" scrawled onto placards during footage of a NYC protest) Godspeed incorporated subtle (and not so subtle) visual cues to indicate just where they stand in the face of institutions and government bodies. While their music has no lyrics, Karl Lemieux's film projections spoke volumes, each image provoking guttural reactions without necessarily calling anyone to action. With a ten-minute sequence of garbage being thrown onto a barge in dramatic fashion, it was clear that Godspeed's heavy visuals messages of anti-capitalist doom and destruction are as much a part of them as their music.
As the night came to a close, the band slowly left the stage, one by one, as the audience emerged from a daze. As a drone lingered on and immersed the room in sound, a girl at the back yelled out "Don't stop!" as the rest of the audience hoped for the same thing.