2022, Music

Godspeed You! Black Emperor Live at the Phoenix Concert Theatre Thursday May 5, 2022

This was my first concert in possibly close to three years. The pandemic played a major part in that but I also don’t remember what the last show I was before the pandemic closed everything down over two years ago. It had been a little while. This was my third time seeing Godspeed. Regrettably, it was the second time I saw them in a venue with few to no seats.

Though I have purchased them and listened to them when they came out, I can’t say I’ve spent a lot of time with the reunion GY!BE albums. I’ve listened to ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! more than the others, simply because it’s older but I haven’t listened to Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress much at all since it came out. The same goes for Luciferian Towers. And I’ve listened to G_d’s Pee at STATE’s END! so many times I forgot it existed until this week. So yeah, I’ve been much more of a casual fan of late.

That’s for many reasons, one of which was my music podcast, which prevented me from listening to a lot of other music. But there is also just a little bit of fatigue – they’re one of those bands that hasn’t exactly evolved much over the last 25 years.

I say all this because, even though I listened to their entire catalogue before the show, I don’t really know the new music well enough to recognize a lot of it. And they played newer music for the majority of the show. So, for me, this show was much more just enjoying their performance than it was hearing tracks I knew well played a little differently (as they do deviate a bit from their recordings).

I was way at the back, because I showed up pretty late, because they went on preposterously late. The acoustics at the Phoenix are not great for a band like Godspeed, they are perhaps a little too loud, especially if you are under the balcony, like I was. (I’d love to see them outside, especially in a gorge. Can we convince them to play in Elora?) The treble got a little lost when there was too much delay. (There is almost always too much delay.) But fortunately the low end was extremely clear, which is I think what most of us pay attention to live with this band.

Despite, the acoustics, it was a pretty great show. It was roughly 90 minutes which was considerably longer than the last time I saw them. It definitely improved as it went on as they went to the more ambitious stuff, and the climax was a really fun moment. As the opening notes of “East Hastings” (from F♯ A♯ ∞ from 1997) rang out there was a collective gasp in the audience and then one guy near us screamed “YES!” causing my friend to note that an audience member screaming “Yes” is not what you normally expect at a Godspeed show. People really do like the older stuff, whatever band this is. (I think that guy was pretty young, too, as was the crowd on the whole.) Another guy in front of us was physically losing his mind at the beginning of “East Hastings,” grabbing his hair.

The show ended with an extremely long feedback loop that threatened an encore (from a band that doesn’t do them). That’s not what happened, but it was a pretty distinct note to go out on. (I have vague memories they did something similar the last time I saw them, but less well thought out.)

Here’s to seeing live music again.

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