January 19th 2011 was a special day, about 9 years after the last time they played the Netherlands Godspeed You! Black Emperor returned to Amsterdam. In 2002, not really familiar with the genre yet having only heard their Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven album, seen a Mogwai and an Explosions in the Sky gig, i was pretty much blown away by the intensity of their performance.
9 years later i’ve turned in a bit of a complaining, ‘seen it all, heard it all’ veteran that unfortunately is hardly impressed by much music or gigs in general anymore and postrock particularly, as i think a lot of the bands these days are re-hashed, recycled attempts. But this GY!BE gig got me enthousiastic again as i still play their records on a regular basis. And apparently i wasn’t the only one as this gig sold out rather fast and hardly any tickets became available days before the gig.
We arrived at Paradiso at around 7.45, gig starting at around 8.30. Since we didn’t feel like standing for 2,5 hours we went straight to the balconies. First balcony was already full, but at the second one we were lucky. Paradiso has a nice solution for the balconies with chairs and little benches. And there was one empty bench in the far left corner of the balcony, meaning we were looking right down onto the stage.
While we settled and got a drink a guy was turning some knobs and playing with effects causing some rather undefinable noise which never got really interesting, or recognizable as music for that matter, luckily that didn’t last long and before we knew it some members of GY!BE arrived at the stage playing with effects, pedals and keyboards. Resulting in a droning sound which lasted for about 15 – 20 minutes. More and more members arrived on the stage and the droning sound slowly turned into the song ‘Albanian’ a great song with some Arabic influences. A never before recorded song as well, but they’ve been playing it live a couple of times and apparently it should be recorded for an upcoming release (if that’s ever going to happen). The set up of the stage and their appearance was mainly the same as 9 years ago. 8 members, of which half were sitting and a big video screen where a projectionist was projecting images that ranged from flying birds to trainrides through desolate areas and a burning village (or was it an industrial site at night?) etc. The interesting part was that these images weren’t coming from a beamer, which is something most bands do, but live from old projectors. I btw wonder if the melting celluloid was live or a projection.
Interaction with the audience was hardly there, if i remember correctly something was said towards the audience once, other then that the band members seemed in a trance-like stage playing their parts. After ‘Albanian’ there were parts played from their albums ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, f# a# oo and Slow Riot For Zero Kanada. Which resulted in a gig that lasted about 2,5 hours, saving the best for last with an incredible intense version of BBF3, one of my favourite songs by GY!BE.
It was intense, impressive and the sound was great but i didn’t get goosebumps as i did last time, probably because of the reason i mentioned earlier. Nonetheless it was more than worth it. And next time they come around i’ll make sure to be there.