Wednesday, March 26, 2003

'Godspeed' made for stereo, not stage

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Indie-rock bands of the experimental and instrumental varieties are in inherent danger of being pegged as self-indulgent. Godspeed You! Black Emperor's mix of chamber-music instrumentation and droning and chiming electric guitars is not for everyone. That was obvious heading into the band's Monday-night/Tuesday-morning performance at the Southgate House.

The surprise turned out to be that even some of Godspeed's own fans aren't into it, either.

The Montreal group's show was a sellout. The line to enter the club snaked down Third Street. It was long enough for Godspeed to delay its starting time until everyone was in the door.

But halfway through the band's two-hour show, the once wall-to-wall crowd had thinned out a bit. And as the show went on, those walls were lined with "fans" seated on the floor struggling to keep their eyes open. Why pay 12 bucks a ticket to snooze, unless you're seeking relief from a sleeping disorder?

It's not like Godspeed didn't sound like Godspeed. Though the show's focus was more on the last two albums, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and Yanqui U.X.O., than the first two, Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada and f#a#oo, the music was fully representative of what could be called the Godspeed sound: slow-bubbling guitar noise and melody, building to bigger and more exciting things.

The instrumentation was the same - nine pieces including violin, cello, drums, xylophone, guitars and basses - and so were the players, despite the often-repeated erroneous notices in the press that Godspeed is some sort of ever-rotating cast of anonymous characters.

Why, then, did the crowd lose steam as the show went on, even though the set steadily built momentum? Probably because Godspeed is made for the stereo, not the stage. It's music for a private residence when the right mood hits (hopefully when the downstairs neighbors are away). It's not a Monday-night appointment to keep.

And no matter how interesting or artful the film projections were that accompanied the music, they didn't quite make up for a band that basically just stood around and played it cool.


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