In his experimental music column The Out Door, Grayson Currin argued that (and I’m paraphrasing) Godspeed You Black Emperor offers a solid gateway to noise music, but their penchant for drones is seen by much of the fan base as simply a means to an end, when the band imbues mass catharsis. His evidence: how the crowd talked through and cheered the introduction of members during “Hope Drone” instead of just feelin’ it. Regardless of whether Currin’s assertion is categorically true or not, this was not an issue Saturday night in Louisville. Everyone shut the fuck up and got experienced as GYBE performed an absolutely gorgeous version of their generally dissonant stage introduction that set the course for almost two hours of flight over dark lands.
First, of course, Amen Dunes, the chairman of the board who never fails to exceed expectations, primed the engine for the evening’s sinister visions. Damon McMahon rolled through town on a cold January night earlier this year to work some sorcery in a smaller setting, to more urgent results. In a large room over a booming PA, selections from DIA and Through Donkey Jaw took on a more rumbling, visceral, possession-inducing effect. Even though McMahon has been more fond of the electric guitar as of late, Amen Dunes is still restrainedly beautiful. With enough volume, though, these songs become terrifying, and at Headliners, Amen Dunes was a destructive force. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve gotten Dunes’d, and I can say with confidence that it’s a reliably great live show.
And then Godspeed creeped on stage one by one and did what they do best – provoke cinematic deathscapes before your very eyes, sitting in chairs without uttering a word. Undoubtedly, this was a better show than the performance I caught last year in Nashville during their first “reemergence” tour. At lot of that has to do with the new album, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, of which they played almost exclusively, save for a particularly spirited rendition of F#A# oo‘s “The Sad Mafioso.” The new material is made for propulsive live experiences. “Mladic” was sonically brutal live, a test of psychological and physiological fortitude. The GYBE cult was loud and commanding in a way Saturday night that they were not last year, and that should speak volumes to the doubters of the new album’s relevance. But beyond the sheer brute force of two drum sets, two basses, and an orchestra pummeling the audience’s tympanic threshold, Godspeed accentuated all of their most gorgeous nuances with the sweeping prophecies strewn about on Allelujah! I don’t care if it sounds corny, the shit was moving, and probably my favorite concert of the year, truth be told. Powerful. More photos after the jump.
GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR