Saturday, September 12, 2015

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, September 11, 2015

The music event of the year may quite possibly have been last night's performance of Montreal's Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse.  

Xylouris White, the collaboration of Cretan lutist George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer Jim White, opened.

Their set was a sort of raga-based acoustic post-punk with sections of improvisational jamming and near-telepathic interplay between the drummer and the lutist, and quite unlike anything we've heard before.  An interesting and promising prelude to the main event of the night. 

The Godspeed set actually began well before most people in the audience had noticed with an electronic drone produced by the humming of the instruments before the musicians even took the stage.  Eventually, the lights dimmed and the musicians gradually, one by one, walked onto the stage and each began adding their own contributions to Hope Drone, the piece heard at the first 12 minutes or so of this remarkable video performance.

Photographing a Godspeed performance is always a difficult task as the band eschews spotlights and other stage lighting so as to better present the remarkable projection show (I can't really call it a "light show" or a "video show," although it certainly has elements of both).  Here's about the best that we got:

A friend of ours caught this better picture and posted it to his Facebook feed.

So, the set list.  The band doesn't announce any of their songs or engage in any other manner of stage banter, and instead just plays their set and lets the music speak for itself.  But as far as we can put it together (and recall the next day), the band opened with Hope Drone and then proceeded to play their latest album, Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress in it's entirety.  This portion, popularly referred to simply as Behemoth, opens with Peasantry, followed by the drones Lamb's Breath and Asunder, and then climaxes with Piss Crowns Are Trebled.  

Following Behemoth, they performed another piece that sounded familiar but we couldn't place (maybe something off of Yanqui UXO), and then Moya from 1999's Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada. That, in turn, was followed by another song we couldn't quite place, although it sounded at times like various passages from Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, and then the whole show climaxed with Mladic from 2012's Allelujah! Don't Bend, Ascend!   In all, it was a full two-hour show, and even without an encore, we think the audience felt satisfied.

It was a terrific and wonderful performance, certainly one of the year's best, and to give you some perspective on how satisfying the show was, the last time we saw Godspeed, at MFNW (RIP) 2013, they only played Hope Drone and Mladic, the opening and closing pieces of last night's show. The creamy 90-minute filler between the Oreo cookies of Hope Drone and Mladic were all in addition to the 2013 performance, which we had thought at the time to be one of the most artistic performances we'd ever seen,  So take one of our all-time favorite shows, more than double it, and then you get an idea of what we experienced last night.

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