Anyone slightly familiar with the underground post-rock/indie music scene, surely have heard of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR. Well anyone who has ever heard their music are either completely bored by it, or completely taken away by it. It is a unique blend of 'orchestral rock' that is very powerful by nature and sends a very clear message despite its complete lack of vocals.
GYBE! happen to be from Montreal and have a very large and strong fan base here which is why they played 4 nights of sold out shows at a relatively unknown but rather majestic theater, the Theatre (it is french) Plaza. It certainly was a perfect venue for such a band. The hall was composed of 2 stories of balconies and the main floor which included the stage. This venue must have used to been a church of some sort due to the architecture and designs along the ceiling. Now whether you find it or care that this is a completely striking venue or not is irrelevant. The fact is, the acoustics in this place were unbelievable, especially for a band with such 'large' music.
Anyways, enough of the rambling. The night, Sunday, that I happen to have bought advanced tickets to, was the first of the 4 night concert series. The doors to the venue opened at around 7:00pm, and hundreds of people crowded into a rather small and completely red cocktail room. The show was scheduled to begin at 8:00pm, but we all know how that is. At around 7:45pm, the doors to the theater opened and Ragman and myself pushed our way forward and into the hall in order to get the best view of the stage possible.
Thus began the wait... It was a long one, it sure was but we managed to get some free promo posters that were lying around in a box. Finally at 9:00pm, the opening band, 'Deep Dark United', took to stage. The hall's lighting sucks so I couldn't really get a good look at the band. However, I did manage to count 6 members as they began to play the most annoying live music I have ever heard. Picture the song Glass House by Radiohead only loud, sloppy and completely muffled. Perhaps the acoustics of this theater just didn't do this acid jazz - rock hybrid band justice, but I and others around me, certainly did not enjoy their performance. They often played completely different things at the same time which is ok except, every single song followed the exact same structure... They start off playing in sync, then one guitarist starts playing the same note over and over against, the other guitarist starts playing a little jazzy, the drummer stands up and beats the drum like a caveman who beat his wife, the trumpet player would go into a demented freak out, the bassist would continue playing what she was playing from the beginning and the last guy who played the, I can't remember, maybe there were 5 members...... Anyways the point is it was no enjoyable, and I was completely fed up when the drummer and trumpet player picked up their instruments, walked up the balcony and began playing from there.
Luckily, their set didn't last too long, about 45minutes. About 30minutes later, after a quick set transition and sound check, 9 of the 15 GYBE! members hit the stage, and took to their respective instruments. Just before they would begin, the MC of the show took to the stage announcing that these 4 shows were to benefit a local punk rock club, the SPCA and some anti Police brutality charity. With all that said and done, he asked for everyone sitting cross legged to stand up. A few complied resulting in shouting from others to sit down. They sat, and the show begun.
In case you didn't know, a GYBE! show consists of the band playing and a projectionist, who is a part of the band, showing films. As the band begun to play Death Methany, the words "HOPE" flashed behind them. This being my first time ever seeing GYBE!, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had heard many conflicting stories of their shows being fantastic, and of their shows being completely boring. With but the first few notes of guitar and violin and I knew this would be a deeply emotional show. As the song evolved, and the drums kicked in and a symphony of sound was being created, a surge of emotion hit as it seemed to with everyone else in the hall. A true feeling of "hope" was what I felt. The song continued and the films changed, exposing that 3 projectors were being used. One to display movies behind the band and 2 to display the films on the walls to the left and right of them. They had many nice films which would often loop of things like moon rises and sunsets, the busy streets of the capitalist tainted free world, street people and many other themes.
The show continued like this, with the music carrying me away to emotions of awaiting certain death in nazi prison camps to complete hope and faith in humanity to recognize its faults and change our ways. Without a single word said, this was portrayed strictly through their music, not even the films, which the band claims are only there to give the audience something other then the band to look at.
The songs lasted around 20minutes each and were followed by tremendous cheers. The crowd was really swept away. Most people gawked in complete silence unable to move due to the haunting melodies and paralyzing drum beats. Other more 'hippy' like people were doing strange hippy dances as they became totally captivated by the music. Even the band members were completely taken away by their own music as could be seen by their gestures as they played in the dark being illuminated only by small red lanterns and a string of blue Christmas lights.
They played for about 2 hours, I think and then stood up as the words "HOPE" flashed on the back screen again. The entire room stood up and gave the band a standing ovation. GYBE! left the stage which only resulted in much louder applause as we waited for an encore. Surely enough they came back and played another 20minute song, which this time the crowd stood up and gawked and danced. The band then waved and left again, resulting in even LOUDER applause. Surely enough they hit the stage again and began playing what was their most powerful piece of the night. It too was finished with the words "HOPE" being displayed behind them. This time they left the stage, but did not return.
I must say, GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR certainly do put on a tremendous show. Although their albums contain as much power and beauty as their live performance, it lacks the essence of feeling each instrument surrounding you. The show was but a mere $8 in advance $10 at the door and was one of the best shows of my life. The only thing that upset me was, they are widly known to be anti capitalism and anti corporation and yet just about every single member had a cigarette in their mouth. I plan on questioning them on this quite soon. The next day, I had an immediate need to see them play again, unfortunatly all the advanced tickets were sold out, and a very limited number were available at the door. I arrived at the theater at 6:00pm only to find an enormous line. Oh well, they live here and will play again here soon. This might not be the case for you, I sincerely suggest you go see them whenever possible. They are heading on a 3 month tour of Europe shortly. The dates are on their webpage.