Live Review: God Speed You! Black Emperor, Marisa Anderson; remembering Mimi Parker…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:38 pm November 7, 2022
God Speed You! Black Emperor at The Admiral Nov. 5, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

I checked out Marisa Anderson’s music prior to going to last Friday night’s God Speed You! Black Emperor show at The Admiral. Actually, I listened to her recordings most of the night before knowing I was going to write a preview for this show. Anderson plays solo guitar, mostly unaccompanied and her records, but totally alone Friday night. Prior to the show I thought it was a strange opener for what would likely be an orchestra-level wall-of-sound experience, but I was wrong.

Marisa Anderson at The Admiral, Nov. 4, 2022.

Anderson stood on stage with just an electric guitar and played gorgeous, mostly somber instrumentals, slightly over-amplified, a wee bit overblown at times, making them sound stark and haunted. No question the music would have been completely different on an acoustic guitar (but just as good). Anderson introduced each song with a story or an explanation, my favorite being one about a man who came up to her after a show and asked why all her songs were sad. Her response: It’s what I play. Making you happy is not my job. After which, she wrote the happy sing she performed next (which was more majestic than happy).

She closed with another happy number — a song about the hummingbird who rules over her back yard. It turned out Anderson was the perfect opener, because the last thing you need before experiencing bombast is more bombast.

And bombast was what we got with God Speed You! Black Emperor. The band came on at the stroke of 9 p.m. to an audience of what looked like around 400 crowded on the floor in front of the stage. The ensemble’s eight members were spread out almost in a semi-circle so each could see the others clearly.

The projectionist at work during God Speed You! Black Emperor at The Admiral, Nov. 4, 2022.

As the opening tones began to rise, I noticed next to me in the back of the room a woman standing on a riser behind four film projectors. Behind her, loops of film hung from a rod like black spaghetti. She began to feverishly look closely at pieces of the film with a red light that hung around her neck, and upon finding the right piece, threaded it through one of the projector’s top sprockets, leaving the rest to hang limp as the film spun in a loop. On the enormous screen behind the band glowed a jittering, scratched-out word – “HOPE”.

Throughout the night she created projected effects, mostly black-and-white looped films of airplane acrobatics, wheat harvesting, ‘70s New York Stock Exchange trading floor, swans, and so on. When the band performed “First of the Last Glaciers,” the film loops were of enormous glaciers floating in an ocean. The band could have created a digital version of what was being projected, but there was something warm and human knowing this woman was back there creating the visuals by hand.

The band sounded as spectacular as ever, playing mostly compositions from their 2021 album G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! God Speed’s compositions generally start with a rhythm or noise, quietly and slowly building to a central looped melody with enormous electric guitars and acoustic instruments (violin, stand-up bass, percussion), before crescendo-ing and fading either to nothing or straight into the next number.

Their music has always been cinematic, but rarely felt so Western or traditional, with most songs falling into a 6/8 double-waltz time, lilting and building and splashing about like the deck of a ship in the middle of an ocean during a squall, beautiful and terrible, the audience staring up mesmerized by the spectacle.

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Low in 2005, Alan and Mimi on the left.

Yesterday it was reported Mimi Parker from the band Low died after her long battle with ovarian cancer.

Low has long been one of my favorite bands, dating back to Things We Lost in the Fire in 2001, when I first interviewed the band. I would have that pleasure a number of times over the years, including interviewing Mimi in 2005 upon the release of The Great Destroyer and in support of their show at Sokol Underground. We talked mostly about her kids, Hollis and Cyrus, and the joys and challenges of touring with them and without them. They are who I’m thinking about today, along with her husband and band mate, Alan Sparhawk, and everyone whose lives were touched by Mimi and her music. She will be remembered, and missed.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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