Godspeed You! Black Emperor – UEA Norwich 23.7.11

Saturday night, and I’m off to see this Canadian ‘post-rock’ band at one of the fine local establishments.  This is not a band I’m at all familiar with, so I went with open mind and no bias, an innocent. All I knew was the name – from that I had a vague expectation of loudness and rockiness.

The venue itself is not particularly full, though a reasonable crowd is present. But…  hang on. I’m not adverse to beards, really, they can look quite striking on the right person if kept nicely. I’m not, however, prepared to be in a large room where 90% of the men have them. Proper ones, none of yer bum fluff poor effort. Most girls are of the hippy dress persuasion. Uh-oh. This does not really bode well, I’m thinking.

The band starts at 9, which is rather early. We amuse ourselves by looking at the long loops of real film tape hanging up by the sound desk – looks like a complete nightmare to me. It is at that point that dearly beloved turns to me and says ‘You’re probably not going to like this lot. You’ll probably be bored.’ Talk about warning in advance!

So on they come. A violin, a double bass, guitars, drums, etc – but they’re mostly sitting down. ‘Where’s the singer’s mike?’ ‘Umm… you might be disappointed if you wait for a singer’ is the reply. K. So, the general clientele, the warning, lack of vocals, and sitting down do not point me to a night of rocking loveliness. Or even a night of musical enlightenment and inspiration, à la Tindersticks. There’s no warning when they start, just an oddly not very co-ordinated launch into the first ‘event’.

‘Event’ is the right kind of word, I think. Each piece of music is finely crafted, carefully considered, beautifully played. Beautifully. It’s too loud, though. I’m advised that a lot of the effect of their music relies on contrasts between pitch, tone and tempo, and that it didn’t come across. Sound was bouncing of the walls near me, distorting and vibrating, which obviously doesn’t help. Even so, it is repetitive and I find myself waiting for crescendos that are promised that never come. At 14 minutes (I timed one) per event, I expect a climax of some sort to happen!

The crowd loved it. Cheers after each piece, cheers at the beginning of  favourites. Not sure how they were distinguished from each other, but I supposed that’s something any non-fan will say about a band they know nothing of.

We left after an hour and a half, by which time beloved had also heard enough.  Prog-hippy-orchestral-electrofolk is clearly not my thing. Still, I’m glad I know that now.

Further info on their site.