Godspeed You! Black Emperor Show Review


Venue: Ogden Theatre

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 02/08/16

Inebriation Level: Sober (cut me some slack, it was a Monday)

I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like it. My ears aren’t still ringing right now, they genuinely hurt. My mind is completely worn out, like I just took a three hour physics exam. Few bands challenge the listener like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the Post-Rock kings from that friendly country to the North. If you value music as an art form and choose genuine music over entertainment like Pop and Rap, this is a concert you must see.

This was the first show I ventured to alone, and before you accuse me of not having any friends and being socially awkward, let me explain myself. If you’re trying to convince someone to go to a concert with you and they don’t know what Post-Rock is, you have to say “Experimental instrumental rock.” That probably scares them a little. Then they ask what the band is called and you say, “Godspeed You! Black Emperor.” Of course then they say, “What the Hell is wrong with you?” Finally, they ask when the show is, a reasonable question. You respond Monday, and well, by that point, you’re flying solo. Or maybe you just don’t have any friends. Crap.

I purposefully arrived late, hoping to limit the time I’d spend awkwardly loitering by myself, pretending I was waiting for someone. I forgot parking around the Ogden Theatre sucks, so rolled to the show probably five or ten minutes after the band took the stage. Being alone on a Monday, I skipped my usual tailgating routine and arrived sober, an extremely rare feat in my years of concert going. The place was packed to the brim, and since I’m reasonably tall, I couldn’t find a good spot to sneak in front of anyone on the side of the stage. I had to settle for the far back of the venue near the bar. Crap #2.

Never in my life have I seen a band so…hidden. They’re known for their visuals at their show, but usually the band plays in front of the visuals. The eight members of Godspeed played in complete darkness underneath two ever-changing screens. It was like they were in an orchestra pit at a symphony. Since I was in the back, I could see the honorary ninth member of the band, working like a madman changing the reels on four old school reel projectors. Yes, like the kind from movie theaters back in the day. Pretty wild.

I literally got zero descent pictures since they hid in the dark the whole show, so had to borrow a few from people with real cameras and stuff.

Never in my life have I seen a band so…quiet. Not one word was spoken the entire show. They’re an instrumental band, so no singing is required. But seriously, no talking, no waving, no gesturing. The eight members jammed in the darkness below the screens and didn’t utter a peep.

Would it make me sound crazy if I said that was for the best? I didn’t feel snubbed, but instead felt that even saying, “Thank you Denver” would have sounded out of place. The music was so powerful and transcending, they were best hidden in the shadows, shattering our eardrums.

They came out to the “Hope Drone,” with one of their more well known visual backdrops showing simply the word “Hope”. It’s hard to explain how much is going on with the eight musicians all simultaneously painting their own sonic pictures. You hear the organic sounds of the guitar, drum beats, booming bass. Yet there’s so much more. Noise, loops, strings, another drum set, another guitar, another guitar. One of the guys literally sits on his knees and mans the sea of pedal boards. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say they’re jamming, but I can assure you, every little sound is meticulously crafted. I mean, this is the band that has to list all of the things used to make the sounds of the album in the liner notes. The music is that complex and their sounds is that overwhelming. After hearing them live, I can tell you their records don’t do them justice, even though all their albums are killer.

This music created a whole different kind of experience. When they started playing “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!'” you could hear the sustain of the drums. You could feel the bass drum shake the building. Between the slow beat, you could hear a pin drop. The Ogden is a rowdy venue, it isn’t like going to the damn orchestra or something. Their show makes you focus, take in the music, challenge your ears and your brain. This isn’t the mindless Pop or Rap shit you hear on the radio, this is art at its finest. And remember I was sober this time, so I know what I’m talking about here.

This was the best I could do. Nice try there iPhone!

This was the best I could do. Nice try there iPhone! That blur at the bottom is the projector. That random head is the second drummer. Sidenote: He looked like a podiatrist.

Godspeed showed their greatest strength in their dynamics, which I consider an important mark of a great show. During “Lambs Breath,” the noise was so intense and the visual so bleak, you would have thought you were watching a horror movie. They must have known that, because when they hit the snare, half the audience jumped, including me. When they launched into “Piss Crowns Are Trebled” I’ve got to say, they convinced me that it was the best track of 2015, blasting through it with such ferocity it gave you chills.

As they obliterated “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III,” complete with loops, voiceovers, and visuals of flames and other crazy things that would make potheads go “Whoa,” they ended the show with a bang. The music didn’t immediately stop, the noise and intertwining instruments continued along with the “Where are you going?” loop from the song “Providence” as they slowly exited the stage. No waves to the crowd, no acknowledgement, but instead they snuck out as discreetly as they had played the show. The audience seemed to be in the same dazed state as me at the completion of the show.

Considering it was a Monday, I was solo, and I was stuck with barely anything in view all the way back by the loud and crowded bar, you’d think it wouldn’t be a great show. Somehow these eight friendly neighbors to the North, hidden in the shadows, proved what music is all about. Back in the day, they didn’t have all our fancy technology. They sat down, spun a record, and took the music in. Godspeed forces you to do just that, but if you’re standing, they’ll make your knees weak.

5/5: Legendary

5 Records

Set List:

Hope Drone

Gathering Storm

Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’

Lambs’ Breath

Asunder, Sweet

Piss Crowns Are Trebled

(Some new song, supposedly called “Buildings” on the interwebs)

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III

Providence (kind of, but not really)

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