02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire -20th April
It’s a wonderful thing that a night like tonight can happen; an experimental band, operating in their twentieth year, selling out one of the country’s favourite venues. It’s a testament to the strength of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music and the dedication of their fanbase, a lucky few of which have been able to cram into the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for this intimate show.
The UK post rock community has to be one of the most dedicated and inclusive scenes around, and this evening is the ideal time to get completely immersed in it. In the charged minutes before the entertainment for the evening begins feverish discussions about other bands and projects hum around the room. Mogwai’s ‘Les Revenants’ soundtrack plays on the PA, followed by ‘Your Hand In Mine’ by Explosions in the Sky. If there was a handbook instructing how to set a vibe for a post rock show these points would be on page one.
Xylouris White are a subversive choice as support, yet somehow a perfect fit. George Xylouris is the soft spoken showman, possessed of prodigious skill with a laouto in his hands, while Jim White, all hair and flamboyance, weaves intricate rhythms beneath. Their sound is earthy and powerful without the burden of heft, and while their set lingers on longer than perhaps necessary their traditional Cretan music is an unexpected treat.
Of course, those looking for heft are in good company with GY!BE. Tonight, live, the band aren’t so much musicians as industrialists. Drums hammer, violins sear and guitars melt and forge riffs akin to molten steel. The famed visuals reflect this with a distinct geo-political leaning. There are empty skyscrapers and quiet cityscapes, contrasted with washed-out nature and decaying leaves. It’s an effective symbiosis of music and film that becomes particularly hypnotic as material from ‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’ is unveiled, taking us over flickering train tracks and subtly unsettling landscapes.
Their newest material on ‘Asunder…’ certainly sees GY!BE at their most truncated and radiant. Live, ‘Peasantry or ‘Inside of Light!’’ is goliathan, revelling in every cycle of its lumbering riff, before the murky pools of sound that make up ‘Lamb’s Breath’ and ‘Asunder, Sweet’ wash through the venue. But it is the encore of ‘The Sad Mafioso…’ that steals the night, the restraint of the band over its tortuous play through imbuing the song with absolute menace. It’s a force of an ending, an exclamation point to close an exceptional performance.
Live: Roundhouse – June 30th