Published Feb 17, 2011While it clearly depends on your age and where you lived at the time, there's no denying that Montreal post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor had a profound impact on an entire generation of people in the band's turn-of-the-millennium heyday, so their return to the stage was equal parts anticipation and folklore.
Kicking off the group's North American reunion run in Vancouver, a weight hovered over the Vogue Theatre as fans awaited the group's return. With that in mind, it was difficult to appreciate opener Total Life, whose heady synthscapes would have been more at home on a mixtape between Black Dice and Emeralds.
In the same way that Godspeed You! Black Emperor communicates their apocalypse-laden message of hope without words, words too fall short of doing their live presentation justice. A wall of amps, several guitarists, two bass players, a drummer, a percussionist and a violinist allowed the eight members on stage to explore dense sonics that varied from ear-bleeding cacophony to pin-dropping guitar segues within each 20-minute suite.
You would have been hard pressed to find evidence of a seven-year absence in Godspeed's ebbing and flowing set, as they explored massive crescendos and delicate transitions with unified dynamics. Also missing were any signs that their sound was dated, with the group's shimmering but voiceless anthems translating well in the current musical climate.
The length of the show was definitely a minor issue, however, as attention spans have clearly dwindled since the early 2000s and a two-hour instrumental set can be daunting. The band's inclusion of 16mm film was a perfect remedy to this, as well as an integral part of the show, accenting the songs with well-planned and highly inventive images from three clicking projectors in the back of the room.
When the show did feel like it was lagging, particularly with selections from the band's divisive Yanqui U.X.O., it only increased the intensity of the explosive climaxes. Closing with a triumphant rendition of their 1999 classic "BBF3," the group imploded into a sea of white noise and feedback, leaving jaws on the ground and fans heralding Godspeed's return.