A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Troxy, 13/12/10

Due to a combination of being busy with work, the demands of fatherhood and the Christmas/New Year period I have struggled to update this blog despite having done quite a lot in December. I’m writing this entry based on memories of the show and some notes I made immediately afterwards…

So - back in December I went to The Troxy in Limehouse for the first time to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor. On the whole I liked the venue, similar in size/layout to, say, the Kentish Town Forum. It had a special, limited-capacity, segregated section at the front but I arrived too late to gain entry so had to stand approx half way back, resulting in a less-than-brilliant view. Oh, and it is carpeted which is a bit unusual…

I had seen Godspeed You! Black Emperor twice shortly after arriving in London. The first time was in 2000 at the Scala in Kings Cross which remains one of the best gigs I have ever been to (shortly after ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’ was released, a time when I was obsessed with the band). The drummer left the stage at one point and walked through the audience beating a drum strapped to his front. Amazing. In 2002 I then saw them play Ocean in Hackney. The band then kind of dissolved and went their separate ways, until the magnificent All Tomorrow's Parties persuaded them to curate one of their festivals and also play some shows around the UK.

At The Troxy they opened with a 20 minute, low drone which gradually increased in volume, getting progressively more abrasive. One word - a scratchy, flickering ‘HOPE’ was projected on to the stage backdrop. They then played ‘Gathering Storm’, the first of many pieces taken from ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’ that were played. I thought the drums initially sounded a little muffled, lost in the guitars and violin. Thankfully, this improved later. The latter section sounded excellent, intense and powerful and moving (just as it did in 2000). Any fears that the momentum may have fallen away after this proved false and some of the crescendos that followed from then on were just so intense and beautiful. In amongst the sublime strings and ascending peaks it is sometimes easy to forget just how heavy and brutal their guitars can be.

One new element (I think) was that the spoken word parts featured on the recorded versions of several tracks were also relayed live, which added further power, emotion and pathos to the show (and is not something I remember happening on previous two occasions I saw them live). The opening to ‘Monheim’ by Murray Ostril as he reminisces about Coney Island was particularly moving. And the final track played tonight, ‘BBF3’, never gets any less affecting no matter how many times you hear it, whether live or on record. ‘Rocket Falls On Rocket Falls’ from their last album ‘Yanqui U.X.O’ sounded staggeringly good. The only (tiny) disappointment was the omission of ‘Moya’ from the setlist. I really expected them to play that one…

Projections on to the back of the stage continued throughout, taking in scenes of revolution, destruction, nature as well as text and abstract imagery. They really add an extra dimension to the show. I don’t know why other bands don’t do likewise…

Setlist (taken from Songkick)

1. Hope Drone
2. Gathering Storm
3. Monheim
4. Albanian
5. Chart #3
6. World Police and Friendly Fire
7. Dead Metheny
8. Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls
9. BBF3

(I later learned that they played a different set on each of the three nights they played at The Troxy)

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