Montreal music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor presents an immersive final show


On September 21, Montreal music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor presented their fourth and final show at the Paradox Theater. The show benefited local charities such as the Native Women’s Refuge of Montreal, the SPCA Montérégie and the DESTA Black Youth Network. Performing mostly tracks from their 2015 album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, the band’s distinctive style was on display, culminating in a musical journey filled with characteristic, vibrant and chaotic accumulations and sensitive, mellow chords.

After regular tours between 1998 and 2002, the group took a long break before resuming the road in 2010. In 2012, they released their fourth album, Allelujah! Don’t bend over! Ascend !, for which they won the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. Since their debut in 1994, the group has influenced a multitude of post-rock groups, including Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Rós.

Even the most committed cult fans of Godspeed tend to agree that Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress miss what the collective’s other albums, such as Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, do musically. However, seeing their most recent songs performed live, the new album sets itself apart from the classics, mesmerizing the listener with thunderous buildups of terrifying, thrilling drums and dark guitar riffs. Listening to the band’s intensely dramatic music while being engulfed by the expansive architecture of the place, a historic former church, was an amplified journey through such an atmosphere.

The group performed under minimalist lighting tinged with red, accompanied by projected visuals. The projections started with abstract images filtered through a grainy film, and progressed to a loop of flocks of sheep, the same ones pictured on the cover of Asunder Sweet and Other Distress. The themes of the video changed with each song but retained the old style of the film. The projection traveled through shots of skyscrapers, deer, stock numbers and flocks of birds, merging into an abstract and emotionally charged representation of the music. Throughout the show, the stimulating imagery helped to highlight the political and anarchic nuances of the band’s often chaotic music. These nuances, normally hidden in the vocal samples in songs and on the back covers of their albums, bring another perspective to the harmonious cacophony of sounds that is Godspeed’s musical style.

Overall, the concert showed Godspeed’s impeccable ability to draw listeners into their beautifully chaotic and heartbreaking melodies and textures. The experience of seeing Godspeed! You Black Emperor live pays off in both visuals and atmosphere, not only intensifying the dramatic and political nuances of the music, but amplifying the music as a fascinating emotional journey, a journey that ended humbly as each member, one by one, advanced off the stage until the final chord.

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