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A review of...
Godspeed You! Black Emperor live at The Boiler Shop, Newcastle
Tonight's support comes from KGD a solo noise/ambient project from Kevn Doria, who at various points in his career has been a member of Growing and Hiss Tracts (the latter a collaboration with Godspeed You! Black Emperor's David Bryant). I sadly miss the first five minutes of his set, so by the time I arrive the large room is already swelling with droning synth and bass sounds. I imagine it started more subtly but I'm smashed in the face by its full force. And I like it. Weirdly for an artist working with these sort of abstract sounds the stage is clearly lit (I usually find ambient acts are more at home working in total darkness or under a shroud of smoke) so it's interesting to try and work out what Doria is actually doing behind his kit which seems to be a stack of boxes and a few effects peddles. I'm still non the wiser but his set, which comprised a single half hour piece, is engaging and immersive. Pretty incredible stuff.
The last time I saw GY!BE they were playing the pristine Sage, over the river in Gateshead. A classical venue and home to the Royal Northern Sinfonia. It seemed like a suitable space for a band like this, not ones to shy from orchestral elements, movements and the like. However, I found the sheer brightness of the place, along with the fact that we got evacuated due to a fire alarm just as the band were starting to get into gear, a bit of a distraction.
Tonight's venue, The Boiler Shop (a building dating back to the 1800s and used by Robert Stephenson and Co. Locomotive Works) is the sort of place you could easily imagine being photgraphed in black & white and glued to the center of a GY!BE record sleeve. I had high hopes, and but for the fact that the dusty boiler shop I knew had been spruced up a bit in the years since a last visited, I wasn't to be disappointed.
Arriving onstage and sitting/standing, facing each other in a commune-like circle, they open up with the now traditional experimental, possibly improvisational piece known as "Hope Drone" the crescendo of which eventually makes way for the strummed bass introduction to "Bosses Hang", the highlight of their latest LP Luciferian Towers. GY!BE have always mixed beauty and darkness so seamlessly and their most recent release proves that they are still the masters of this art. They play the whole thing tonight and it's an absolute joy to behold. Altogether more powerful and encompassing than a recorded session could ever be, it puts GY!BE right up there with the very best live bands around today.
The visuals projected onto the back of the stage are also stunning, from the tumbling aircraft during the climactic moments of "Undoing a Luciferian Towers", to the abstract structures and beach fights that loop and merge with the music, it's all part of the package.
Things get a little heated midway through the set when one of NewcastleGateshead's trademark fire alarms can be heard inside the venue. Luckily it's shortlived, and even when a fire engine pulls up in front of the huge windows of the venue (and proceeds to do a seven-point-turn), right in front of the band, it only musters some puzzled looks/laughter from the band as they plough on regardless.
As a nice finale we're treated to two tracks from 1999's Slow Riot for Zero Kanada EP, "Moya" and "Blaise Bailey Finnegan III". The former put's Sophie Trudeau's often delicate violin contributions at the forefront, giving it some space to breathe before the room is once again immersed in a well drilled cacophony (three guitars, two bass, two drums and a violin in case you're interested). And then comes the ritual of exiting the stage, each member leaving a trace of droning instrument after they've departed one by one, only for a couple of members to come back on after five or so minutes to gradually switch everything off again. Usually the audience would be long gone by now but tonight we're rapt to the end.