Concert Review! Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, Canada

I never thought I’d get to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor live, after they went on hiatus in 2003. Then out of nowhere, the band reunited for some live shows, including a show I enjoyed at Lee’s Palace in April 2011. Then they dropped a new album, comprising songs they had played live but never really recorded. It won the Polaris Prize, marking a stellar return for the band. This year, they have dropped another new and another excellent album, with Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, which includes the amazing piece Piss Crowns Are Trebled. We are truly spoiled.

The band played Danforth Music Hall both Friday and Saturday nights, with PeteHatesMusic in attendance on Saturday. The Montreal band took to the stage with just 2 people at first, but this quickly swelled to 8 people. As usual, the band used film projectors to split the screen backing the band in two, resulting in some cool matching and connected images. The word Hope flickered in the background as the band played opening song Hope Drone. It was a mountain of chaos with no distinguishing rhythm or lead.

HOPE. Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Danforth Music Hall (Copyright: PeteHatesMusic)

HOPE. Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Danforth Music Hall (Copyright: PeteHatesMusic)

The crowd cheered the end of Hope Drone but more so the beginning of Gathering Storm. The dual projectors kicked in as the song did, showing flowers, bugs, and a country house reminiscent of the setting of that incredibly boring season of The Walking Dead. Chaotic bird footage matched nicely with swirling end of song.

We got a taste of the new album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, minus the drone and noise in between the heavy epics that open and close the album (although there might have been sprinkles of Lambs’ Breath and Asunder, Sweet in between). First up was Peasantry, followed by the building and immensely satisfying Piss Crowns are Trebled.

The fifth track, at the 75 minute mark of the evening, was Moya, which began to much applause. The sixth song was seemingly a new song, which was violin-lead and had a somewhat basic structure, with an out of nowhere heavy ending.

The band closed their two hour set at Danforth Music Hall with a movement from East Hastings – The Sad Mafioso – the only piece they have licensed to film or television (an edited version showed up in 28 Days Later). The crowd cheered as images of police cars and the Jesus is Lord Revival Centre flashed on loop on the screen.

The band played a dense set, showing off their musicianship, and ability to stretch and distort sounds. I was especially impressed by how they manage to sound like an army of strings, yet have one violin player.

It was a fantastic set, blending the drone and dark imagery the band often exudes, with the almost classical nature of their innovative music. They really need to do a four hour show to satisfy my endless cravings for their music.

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PHM Rating for Godspeed You! Black Emperor: 9.0/10

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