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Godspeed You Black Emperor brought their sixth album to life onstage and it was stunning

Godspeed You! Black Emperor brought the Melbourne Recital Centre to its knees with an extended rendition of their sixth album, Luciferian Towers.

Image source: 
Shaina Kaye Photography

Many could be forgiven for saying that the album wasn’t Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s strongest release, yet seeing it live accentuated its high points and added a strong sense of context to the album’s intricate compositions. Thunderous crescendos, haunting drone and screaming guitar harmonies characterised the one-and-a-half-hour set, stretching far beyond the album’s 44-minute run time. An eager audience watched from the edge of their seats, wearing unwavering contemplation on their faces as they tapped their knees through fiery segments and quietly meditated during the slow.

With a minimum of eight musicians on stage at any one time, it didn’t take much to see what kind of show was about to unfold. The noises of two drummers, two bass players, three guitarists and a violinist all weaved and reconciled during set, accompanied by a projection in the background opening with the title ‘Hope’. Anyone who’s done their homework will know that Godspeed You! Black Emperor are unashamedly anti-capitalist (despite being a non-verbal act), and while the projection could be left to interpretation, the imagery of cold, snow covered towns, long train journeys, animals going about their business and police cars flashing in the dead of night seemed to paint an image of dystopian contrasts in a world where few people roam.

Combined with an extended barrage of unrecorded riffs and fury, the show’s lengthy nature kept people guessing where the music was heading next. Lingering drone segments, ambience, towering riffs and even a ninth musician who joined on saxophone couldn’t have commanded attention any better if they’d thrown hooks in the audience’s eyes – the mind-blowing expansion on familiar material repurposed the album into something that struck like a weapon. As the show closed, a stunned crowd poured into the streets – with utterances of “how good was that?” cutting through the contrastingly quiet night air.

Highlight: Seeing the guitar harmonies first hand. Fwoar.
Lowlight: Do. Not. Clap. Until. Show. Is. Over. People.
Crowd Favourite: ‘Bosses Hang’.