Godspeed’s symphonic sound reaches new heights

The Montreal collective raises the standard for "cinematic" post-rock during Danforth Music Hall performance

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR at Danforth Music Hall, Saturday, September 26. Rating: NNNN

Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s second sold-out night at the Danforth Music Hall got underway with Hope Drone, as two screens showing home movies flickered to life and the Montreal post-rock collective’s members wandered onstage, plugging in, rearing up, steadily building something out of nothing. The thick crescendo gave way to fan favourite and live staple Gathering Storm, which the band performed with laboured precision – formidably competent but perhaps a bit too workmanlike in its execution to fully unleash the song’s prolonged Shepard-tone ecstasy.

This was basically the warm-up, though, and when the band smashed into the opening processional dirge of Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress (their most recent record, which was played in its entirety on both nights), everything seemed to come into alignment, sounding menacing and monolithic, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Even more than 2012’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, which didn’t feature in the setlist at all, Asunder’s songs are well-suited to the kind of venues that Godspeed have been playing since they became active again. (Also, it’s weird how Godspeed shows nowadays feel more like going to the symphony than dying inside of a jet engine.)

Now fully revving and basking in the crowd’s goodwill, the band tore through catalogue heavyweights Moya and The Sad Mafioso, as well as a lengthy new song that is going to make critics wish they hadn’t been using the word “cinematic” so much to describe the band in the past. At the two-hour mark (to the minute!) Godspeed wound down their entropic performance with a polyphonous goodbye drone, each member leaving the stage to a loop of their own instrument. The audience howled for more, and got the house lights instead.

music@nowtoronto.com | @streetsbag

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