The Verse’s Tom Evans reviews Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s gig at Brighton Dome on 23rd October 2017.
Support on the night came from KGD which is a moniker used by Godspeed You! Black Emperor associate Kevin Doria. Playing solo on a dimly lit stage, he basically played one extended song during his short support slot.
Quite difficult to categorise, his sound was like an ambient drone. It might be an acquired taste, but it was right up my street. Perhaps to its repetitiveness, it was really easy to get lost in the music as it was almost hypnotic in places. Although it was just a brief 30-minute set, I would have happily heard more and maybe even a second song!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor have been around for over 20 years, although they did have an extended hiatus until their reformation about 7 years ago. This autumn tour is in support of their 3rd album since they reformed, Luciferian Towers.
They were applauded onstage by a clearly devoted audience and during some of the quieter moments, the respectful audience was silent throughout the gig – apart from cheers at the end of each song. The only sound during this quieter time was with the whirring of the projectors, which were providing visuals throughout the set.
They began with the gentle Hope Drone, leading onto Mladic which was my joint-favourite song of the night. I say song, but it was probably close to 20 minutes, beginning with a calm start and leading into an incredible crescendo. The accompanying visuals really added to the songs as it was an instrumental gig.
Rather than being a plain old rock band, GSY!BE almost resemble an orchestra as band members were swapping instruments throughout and featured two drummers as well as a small string and brass section, alongside guitars to create an incredible wall of sound. It may not be a term the band are particularly fond of, but I do believe the phrase ‘post-rock’ best describes their sound. Since they have been such an influence on many bands, they really are pioneers of the genre. In my head, the music they create is what the end of the world would sound like.
Although they do sound great on record, it is live that they really come into their own. Even without lyrics they succeed in making you feel a string of emotions based on the music alone. It was fascinating how the visuals seemed to match the music being played. These ranged from pages from novels and newspaper clippings to world war footage and coverage of riots and protest marches, all in black and white.
I did enjoy the tracks from their recent album, however the final song, The Sad Mafioso, was the perfect way to end the night. Interestingly, it was the first time the visuals were in colour featuring the flashing lights of police cars and was the only song to feature any words as it began with an extended sample of a preacher. Although it was released some 20 years ago from their debut, it still sounds incredibly important and not like many other bands out there. It sums up their sound and style perfectly with the slow gradual tempo that builds up to thunderous heights. The tempo comes back down as the various band members leave the stage one by one till all we are left with is the settling of the feedback from the instruments left onstage as the storm that they had created calms down.