SAN FRANCISCO GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL

Like the darkest trance and deepest house, however, Godspeed has those towering, glorious climaxes.

SAN FRANCISCO GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL

It is not exactly clear when the performance begins. Is it the first flicker

of the slide projector, or the first outbreak of audience shushing? The

eight (at a rough count) members of Godspeed You Black Emperor!

have been

wandering across the stage since the end of support band Mecca Normal

's set.

The soft opening bars of Sophie Trudeau's violin pass almost

unnoticed, but

halfway through the first ten-minute piece, even the

chattering at the bar has stopped.



As the first shuddering crescendo is dispatched to the rafters, the nervously

excited audience is unsure what to do. There is some tentative clapping before

a clear voice at the front breaks the tension - "that was incredible".

Encouraged, there are a few more shouts, more scattered applause. Despite the

seriousness, this is not the hushed reverence of a

Radiohead gig - people are not hanging on every drop of ash

from the bass

player's fag. The wide open spaces that this huge music describes and

provokes are all in your head, not theirs. More urgent than Mogwai

, more

focused and melodic than Cale-inspired Velvets

, it clears the clutter from

the neural circuits, making way for thoughts of - they hope - revolution.

There is no trace of irony here, no smirking. These people are

totally fucking serious, even about the duelling xylophones.



Most of the material is unfamiliar, only the new album standout 'they

don't

sleep anymore on the beach/monheim' is recognisable. There is little

movement onstage. The musicians watch each other intently, and the violinist

keeps an eye on the slide show, seemingly drawing her cues and pacing as much

from the shaky images of teetering buildings as from the two drummers.

During the encore, a drummer roams through the audience, tapping the rim of a

snare. The crowd parts silently, avoiding eye contact as if he

were a nutter on the subway.



In this wordless landscape, a 'Gravity Grave' era

Verve-like state of nodded

out bliss would seem to be the achievable peak. Like the darkest trance and

deepest house, however, Godspeed has those towering, glorious

climaxes. Not

just the short, ejaculatory euphoria of a trance breakdown but rolling,

muscle-spasming multiple crests. So lift those skinny fists, and bring

tissues and cigarettes.



Andy Wilko

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