SHOW REVIEW: Godspeed You! Black Emperor left me exhausted but overjoyed at Headliners 5/17

Why do people go to concerts? You go to sing along to the hits, dance a bit, high-five your friends and head home, right? When you strip those niceties away, though, what are you left with? A purely sensory experience. The performance last Thursday, May 17 at Headliners Music Hall from Canadian post rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor the very definition of a primal sensory experience. It felt like nothing short of a cosmic event.

The opener, an electronic musician by the name KGD, set the mood with a long, atmospheric, layered drone piece that felt like wading through dark matter. I feel like it may have over-stayed its welcome at around a half hour, but for a time, the dark ambiance was enveloping.

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GY!BE only played around seven songs, but the show lasted a solid two hours. Shockingly, it flew by. Without engaging the audience in any form, the eight musicians filed on stage and simply began, accompanied by a series of rustic film reels projected from the back of the room. As the music would crescendo, the film would begin to bubble and burn, a brilliant touch that lended heartily to the dark and ominous atmosphere. The peaks of this show came when the music was at its full, teeth-rattling loudest, and the film was at its most dilapidated. The sensory overload was a borderline high.

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The band covered every aspect of their expansive sound, from the stunning orchestral suites, pristine ambient, colossal post rock works, and every mix thereof. The band performed perhaps their most famous work, “Mladic” from 2012’s “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” A massive 20-minute instrumentation that is absolutely enthralling in its depth and complexity. The band also performed a handful of tracks from their newest record, Luciferian Towers, and capped off the night by performing their legendary EP “Slow Riot to Zero Kanada” is its entirety. Violent visuals from Trump rallies, coupled with the poetic ravings and euphoric crescendos that make up the track “BBF,” made for a near-perfect finale that took several minutes to fully fade out.

I was entirely exhausted from this show. My ears rang, and my head hurt, and I was coated in sweat. But I left overjoyed, unable to remember the last time a show had left such an impression on me. A majority of the concerts I go to may be for the fun of it, but it’s shows like this that really make me realize how much live music can do.

Watch a video from the show taken by YouTube user Laura Zisopulos:

This show review was written by Aaron Hartley. Aaron is a freelance journalist local to Louisville. When he’s not making coffee for a living, he’s staying on top of all things culture, from music to film. You can check out more of his writings here.