Explosions In The Sky @ Metropolis – 18th September 2016

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Post-rock – it will forever be the music genre I could never get my friends into. Try as I might, nobody ever seemed to get it. Whether its the lack of singing, the long song lengths, or something else, its certainly one of the most underrated, unappreciated fields of contemporary music. Either you get it, or you don’t. How refreshing it is then, when Texan post-rock pioneers Explosions In The Sky come to town, to be around a couple of thousand of like-minded individuals who DO get it!

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They arrive onstage at 9.15, and “frontman” (in the sense that he’s the only one with a mic!) Munaf Rayani addresses the crowd briefly, thanking opener Julianna Barwick, and then us with the words “we remember you all from last time, thanks for seeing us again,” acknowledging the devoted following they’ve picked up since their formation in 1999. Thats the last time the mic is used until the end of the show. They then proceed to take all assembled on one of the most moving musical journeys, across the incredibly varied sonic landscape that is an Explosions In The Sky live show. Its difficult to put into words, but I shall try my best!

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They open with Wilderness, the title track from current record The Wilderness, their 7th overall. Beginning with a long, building introduction, layered with delicate strumming from the 3 guitars, one of which is played with a violin bow at one point to creating a haunting echo over the top. It then proceeds to blend into Catastrophe And The Cure, from 20007’s “All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone.” Munaf and guitarist Michael James duel with guitars, creating opposing sounds that somehow harmonize perfectly. Munaf then stoops with his guitar hanging low, as if waltzing with it, and all the while, the stage is bathed in bright red-orange light which, combined with the copious amounts of dry ice on stage, give the effect of the stage being on fire. Munaf then sheds the guitar altogether, grabbing a snare drum to add the military-style drumming of the outro. This leads into The Ecstatics, with its electronic hand clap intro and twinkly beats, and the beams of the vertical-pointing lights along the front of the stage resemble prison bars when combined with the dry ice smoke, before the furious rock guitar intro of Greet Death from 2001’s “Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever” brings on a bout of head-banging from band and crowd alike.

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Logic of a Dream from the current record begins with the sound of a literal explosion, and strobe lights fire and bathe the stage in white light. Michael adopts a sitting stance with his bass for the much of the song, playing it almost like a sitar, and guitars thrash furiously once more on 2007’s The Birth and Death of the Day, ending in a burst of distorted guitar feedback.

Smoke again engulfs the stage entirely during With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept, causing us to lose sight of the band entirely, and even more so as the light fades, before a loud beat like a thunder crack explodes that rattles the hair on my head. Colors in Space then rumbles into life with the sound of what resembles a giant electronic xylophone, again almost giving the crowd a fright, and then those vertical lights lining the front of the stage emit a rainbow of colours, swirling across the stage. Its gets remarkably smokey again, with the band barely visible, as if subservient to the thing they just unleashed. The song then ends in a huge wall of feedback that rattles the skull, and the rainbow wall angles and falls into the crowd. A truly epic moment.

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And then things get more epic, as if that was even possible. The unmistakable intro to Your Hand In Mine, from 2003’s seminal “The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place” record (unquestionably in my all-time top 5 records) starts, and immediately, I am head-to-toe covered in goosebumps. That’s rare enough as it is, but as the song creeps into life, I physically feel tears roll from my eyes and down my cheeks, which has never happened to me in hundreds and hundreds of gigs – indeed, this is my 4th time watching Explosions In The Sky, and it hasn’t happened then either. For some reason, tonight, with everything that came before, its just a perfect moment, and I am physically overcome by the enormity and beauty of it. I’m not an emotional guy by any means, I have no memories attached to this song – it’s inexplicable, but it just got me.

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Disintegration Anxiety and finally the wonderful The Only Moment We Were Alone, also from The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, conclude the show, with Munaf slapping the face of his guitar to add the drum beat, before the song reaches its breakdown in the middle. Large portions of the crowd cheer, assuming its the end of the song, but then the song erupts back into life for its grand finale, ending with the band jumping onto their pedals in perfect synchronization and killing the sound and ultimately, the show. Munaf returns to the mic with a “merci, bon nuit, see you next time,” before all leave the stage together, after 90 minutes of musical perfection. Will Munaf recognize us as the same crowd the next time they come to town? Probably; after all, it seems that either you get it, or you don’t. After tonight’s epic set, we here tonight will forever be grateful to count ourselves among those who do.

Set List

Wilderness
Catastrophe And The Cure
The Ecstatics
Greet Death
Logic Of A Dream
The Birth And Death Of The Day
With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept
Colors In Space
Your Hand In Mine
Disintegration Anxiety
The Only Moment We Were Alone

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – capturacamera.com

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