This isn’t going to be a proper review, for a couple of reasons. Indeed, you could probably argue – as people sometimes do – that my usual reviews aren’t proper reviews either, but, well, whatever. No one making you read ‘em, is there? Right. So.
Where was I? Godspeed review, right. The first reason this won’t be a proper review is that what snuck in under this morning’s radar disguised as a Red Stripe hangover turns out to be one of those fast-onset colds where you’re not really coughing much but are well-mucoused and heated in the sinus department; add a side-serving of Feeling Like I Fell Down The Stairs, and there’s the state of the world address: feeling like death, thanks for asking. #firstworldproblems, sure, but what is privilege if you can’t occasionally lean back into it and remind yourself of exactly why you’re so lucky by comparison to 95% of the world’s population? I will not die, starve or be imprisoned for not writing a review today. Nor will you, dear reader, likely suffer its absence either. Let us take this moment to remember the complex set of uncontrollable circumstances that brought us to this place, and reflect on our good fortune, as well as how we might treat others fairly.
Second reason this won’t be a proper review is that, in addition to making me feel like death, this cold is making my mind wander and my keyboard pickin’ fingers switch into Waffle Mode. Yes, more than usual; I know, right?
Thirdly, Godspeed You! Black Emperor were everything I expected them to be and more, and the best way to encapsulate that expectation in a word is “indescribable”. It’s probably an odd thing for an incurable writer-about-music to say, but I suspect the whole reason music is so persistent, popular and transcendent an artform is that it achieves communication and emotional connections that mere words – even from the pens of the greatest writers in the world – simply can’t do. The bandwidth is too low, perhaps… and there are physiological and psychological factors involved with the way we experience music as well…
But I digress. Look, I could write you a list of tracks in the order they were played (if I’d noted it down); I could talk about melody coalescing out of chaos, familiar tones and drones and much-loved hooks and passages surfacing like whales from an ocean of sound; I could talk about the backdrop of multiple Super-8 cine-projections, like a primitivist take on VJing that spliced together monochrome images of decay, decline and emptiness across what I assume to be Canada and the US; I could talk about standing practically rooted to the spot for two hours, swaying slightly sometimes; I could talk about my momentary but bright-burning fury at the philistinic idiots who talked loudly through the quiet passages of the last few pieces. I could talk about all of that, but it wouldn’t mean a bloody thing. Words can’t capture a predominantly wordless experience in any meaningful way. All we’re left with is emotion, and if we could communicate emotion effectively, I don’t think we’d be living in this flawed but desperately beautiful world the way we do.
But still, emotion by analogy is all that remains, so I’ll say this:
Listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor play live was like having someone you love dearly hold your hand while you die.
Yeah, that’s it. And if you have to ask whether or not that’s a positive thing, you’ve missed my point and proven it simultaneously.