I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor live Thursday, on a show part of their first tour in nearly ten years. They haven't exactly been broken up, but rather pursuing different projects, one of which is/was whatever name Silver Mt. Zion is going under today. Anyhow, the show was at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. I picked that day to go as it seemed to be a more, well, epic place to see GY!BE at, rather than Brooklyn's Masonic Temple, which seemed to be a pretty mediocre venue. I was also excited by the idea of a seated show simply because when I saw Silver Mt. Zion live, there was no crowd movement beyond just a small bit of swaying. And oh what a mistake my judgement was. Now, make all the "hipsters don't dance" jokes you want, but it's not like this is music that makes you want to do much but stare dead ahead and sometimes cry. And I know the Catholics have a reputation for being self-hating about as much as the Jews do, but holy hell even we don't use hardwood pews built in the 19th century to, apparently, keep Catholics awake during 4 AM Latin masses before going back to their jobs as chimneysweeps. It's saying something when the only padded locale was the kneeler. The pews ended up turning into an endurance test, with people evacuating the venue at the end of -- and occasionally, in the middle of -- every single song.
So, in effect, for three hours, Godspeed tortured every young person in NYC who made it to that show. I say three hours because the opening act was so abysmal the only thing to concentrate on was the pain. I have a standing blog-policy to not shit on anyone directly, so I won't mention his name, but holy hell if your music relies on three seconds of ethereal strumming repeated through an entire four song and the only other aspect to it is the lyrics, at least make sure the people in the back can make some goddamn sense of them. I'm not saying the people in the front fared any better, but what I heard was an old Flying Saucer Attack tape in an old boombox in a tunnel.
Godspeed themselves were great. It's hard to speak about the actual music because it was, well, exactly what how one would think they sound live. A little more squeaky and dissonant, but when they played "Moya" it only took me a few seconds to realize "oh, hey, that's 'Moya.'" They put the music that is on the album together on stage and sounded wonderful. Now, along with the band itself -- which I couldn't see from my pew -- they used a video artist. They had four film projectors set up to hit two separate areas, letting the video overlap itself occasionally, and a whole lot of film loops. Every song used different loops and the artist used them to different effects. Occasionally, they were just played straight. Sometimes, as in the video for "Monheim" below (thanks setlist.fm!) the physical loops would be sped up, slowed down, and burned. The burning effect was especially spectacular, albeit a bit hard to make out in the video above (which you should turn up to full screen and 1080p because damn if it is not an awesome video.) Below is a part of "The Sad Mafioso" shot by a different person and clearly using a different style of video.
So, the show was amazing and I really hope they come around again and I hope everyone who sat in the front has recovered their hearing by now. Also, I now own an official Godspeed You! Black Emperor t-shirt. The concept of the fact makes me giggle, a lot.