Last summer, I took a ride all the way to Bloomington, Indiana, and back just to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor perform in a fairly small rock club, the Bluebird. This month, the Montreal rock orchestra finally got around to playing in Chicago, with shows on Feb. 13 at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel and Feb. 14 at Thalia Hall. I was at the Rockefeller Chapel concert.
In some ways, the performance was similar to the remarkable one I’d witnessed last year. In their typical fashion, the musicians in GY!BE took the stage without saying a word as a single chord droned. Fragmentary films flashed on the screen. The band played epic and thunderous compositions — including a full run-through of its 2015 album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress. And then after a few more songs (each lasting around 15 minutes) the mysterious ensemble departed the stage.
But there was one significant difference between these two concerts: the setting. With its high ceiling and Gothic architecture, Rockefeller was a perfect setting for Godspeed You! Black Emperor, heightening the sense of drama. I sat about halfway back in the chapel. That was too far away to get a good look at the band, but it didn’t really matter — it was a great vantage point for taking in the majesty of the space and the music.
(Pardon my grainy little pictures from this concert — I was using my iPhone from a long distance.)
SET LIST: Hope Drone / Gathering Storm / Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’ / Lambs’ Breath / Asunder, Sweet / Piss Crowns Are Trebled / Moya / The Sad Mafioso