Fans were understandably ecstatic when in 2012 Godspeed You! Black Emperor announced its fourth album, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – its first in a decade. But the release of the long-awaited project from the Canadian post-rock titans proved to be more than just a lone “comeback album.”
Now, two years after a much-hyped performance at Crescent Ballroom, the enigmatic group has already returned to downtown Phoenix, upgrading venues for a May 21 performance at The Van Buren. Marisa Anderson provided support.
Since reconvening in 2010, the Montreal band has found itself in a somewhat prolific second act of its career. Years after such revered projects as F# A# ∞ and Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, the band is back steadily releasing projects and touring across the world.
The previous show at Crescent Ballroom, which supported their fifth album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, marked the band’s first performance in Phoenix since 1999.
Like that past show, the May 21 concert began in usual Godspeed tradition. After an opening set from Anderson and a short wait, the lights dimmed and an unsettling drone filled the air. The band slowly and one-by-one filed onto the stage over the span of several minutes.
Beginning with violin and double bass, Godspeed gradually built up to the noisy wall of sound that is known as “Hope Drone,” a usual concert introduction for the band. A scrawling of the world “Hope” flickered across the wall behind them.
A smooth transition gave way to the lengthy “Mladic,” the first track from ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
But immediately after that track, the band brought things forward to last year’s Luciferian Towers, performing three of the album’s four tracks.
First was “Bosses Hang.” Arguably one of the prettiest songs the band has ever written, it was also performed at the group’s 2016 Crescent Ballroom show. Though the performance was basically the same, it was equally enthralling, with the backdrop set to rising and panning video footage of massive buildings and skyscrapers.
The band then added saxophone to the mix to perform “Fam/Famine” and “Undoing a Luciferian Towers,” which displayed video footage of a falling plane and riots, among other stark imagery.
But it was the conclusion where the group took things back to its classic material, performing the two-track 1999 EP Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada – “Moya” and Blaise Bailey Finnegan III.”
The band concluded its approximately two-hour performance in usual Godspeed fashion by exiting the stage one by one, leaving behind a jarring wall of feedback and noise, after several minutes of which the amps were gradually quieted and then silenced. But one thing is for sure; you can’t leave a Godspeed performance without being at least a little bit stunned and impacted.
Undoing a Luciferian Towers
Blaise Bailey Finnegan III