Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Glasgow Arches, Friday 22nd July 2011

I’ve always had a bit of a curious relationship with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. My first memory of them was reading this interview with them where they had a go at Radiohead, calling them hypocrites and liars. Even though a few of my friends said that I’d love GYBE if I gave them a chance, the fact that they didn’t hold a particularly favourable attitude towards Radiohead instantly turned me against them. I was pretty obsessed with Radiohead at the time, and my attitude was that any band who had the nerve to have a go at them clearly weren’t worth bothering with. What can I say? I was young and stupid.

A couple of years later, my flatmate gave me a copy of the absolutely stunning A Silver Mount Zion record, ‘He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of our Rooms…’. I had no idea they had anything to do with Godspeed, but after discovering that they were an offshoot of Godspeed, I decided that I really should let their Radiohead dissing slide and give them a go after all. Downloading much of it from Limewire using a slow as hell dial-up connection, I immersed myself in their discography, and I was completely captivated.

While I could listen to them as often as I liked (and believe me, I did), by this point it was 2003, and GYBE had gone on what looked like being a permanent hiatus. As far as I was concerned, I thought that I had missed my opportunity to see them live. With this in mind, you would’ve thought that I would have been pretty excited when it was announced last year that they would be reforming for a small number of shows, including a gig at the Glasgow Barrowlands in December. Strangely enough, while I’d always wanted to see them live, my enthusiasm for all things post-rock had slowly diminished over the years, and so I decided against buying a ticket. After hearing glowing reports from various friends who braved the winter cold to attend the gig, I regretted my apathy. I guess my stupidity was not reserved for my youth!

And so to Friday night and their gig at the Arches. Initially, this gig was also meant to be at the Barrowlands, but because of slow ticket sales, it had been moved to the Arches. While the Barrowlands is easily one of the best venues for live music in Glasgow, I’ve never particularly enjoyed going to gigs at the Arches. I’ve always been more conscious of the crowd standing around me there, and the sound has always been pretty poor. Unfortunately, it was no different for Godspeed on Friday night. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a really good gig. Taking to the stage with a video looping the word ‘hope’ on a projector screen behind them, Godspeed played for over two hours.

The highlights of the night for me were ‘Storm’, the opening track from ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven’, and BBF3. The opening movement of ‘Storm’, where guitars and violin mournfully combine before the song opens up into a triumphant march, was one of the most stunning things I’ve ever heard live.

Godspeed member Bruce Cawdon recently mentioned that the band were planning on recording new material, but you might have to wait a while for it. In the mean time, guitarist Efrim Manuel Menuck recently released his debut solo effort, and you can listen to it here.