Amidst Lisbon’s old quarters sits Galeria Zé Dos Bois. To reach it in a gloomy and rainy night such as the one felt on November 23, it’s unavoidably to confront the slippery reality of the town’s classic pavement. At the end of the day, it’s as fitting a prelude as they come to witnessing J.R. Robinson’s Wrekmeister Harmonies present the new “Light Falls”. It is also the only one, as there is no opening act that night, just the hurried and hushed pre-concert conversations.
For this tour, the core duo of Robinson and Esther Shaw is joined by Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Sophie Trudeau on steel guitar, Thierry Amar on bass and Timothy Herzog on drums. Despite their post-reunion output being arguably less relevant than that of the band in which they are guesting, it seems the tour is billing their presence as equally relevant as what they’re playing. Irking yet understandable, marketing, you little shit. As the set unfolds, theirs is a background presence, as it should; yet one of undeniable grace and subtlety, as it is expected from musicians of their caliber.
The stage looks somberer as the musicians take to it, with its side window covered and the lights rather dimmed. J.R. asks for a brighter setting and an added layer of light falls on them as they get set on their way to present the new record in its live incarnation, as short and beautiful you’d expect. It’s a far cry from the grandiose and cinematic nature of their first Thrill Jockey piece, but one in which Robinson presents a structured and condensed version of something he’s always done so well – quietly bringing you completely unaware to a wave trough, only to step on his pedal and bring it all crashing down on you crest first, seemingly commanding his cohorts to join him doing so.
Compelled by the unceasing applauses to perform an encore, he seemingly finds the whole ordeal bizarre in itself, adding something to the tone of “you don’t get an extra painting if you keep clapping at a museum” before presenting us with an unfinished draft of a song. No, we don’t get extra paintings, but one could conceive a painter showing an extra sketch after an overwhelmingly strong reaction from visitors to his gallery. There’s something quite fascinating about that idea and was pretty much how that rainy November night came to an end at Galeria Zé Dos Bois, not with a majestic bang but with a beautiful sketch.