Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Manchester Albert Hall, 17 April

Live Review by Gary Kaill | 20 Apr 2015

Tonight, during a crushing Mladic, the epic foundation stone of 2012's 'comeback' album​ ’Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, Godspeed You! Black Emperor offer the audience a sliver of context aside their instrumental, narrative schema. 'Out of Order.' 'Fear.' 'Fuck America.' Seemingly random phrases, they appear as graffiti, on typed pages and on industrial signage within looped, monochrome back projections; dreamlike, jittery, lo-def footage that marries both the horror and beauty of industrial decay and of snowbound, unknown cities. Picture the video tape from The Ring, only not quite so light-hearted. 

They enter as casually as you like, violinist Sophie Trudeau leading the current eight-strong touring party into customary opener Hope Drone. A full house is rapt but appears cowed. Or merely awed? Either way, for the first hour Manchester is respectful rather than rapturous. The set motors towards the present via the past (Moya) and the future (two new pieces). By the time the dread beat of Peasantry or 'Light! Inside of Light!' leads into a set-closing performance in full of new album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, the room is fully charged. On many levels a brutalising experience, the end in sight verges on sweet relief. 

Eschewing stage lighting completely, the Montreal collective remain a unique and disorienting spectacle. No words: they come, they play, they leave. And with a stage set-up that smacks of rehearsal room – two band members sit with their backs to the audience throughout – a Godspeed You! Black Emperor live show serves as a shocking dismantling of the norm. This is no rock gig: this is performance art in extremis. [Gary Kaill]