Explosions In The Sky at Vicar Street, Dublin, on Thursday 13th February 2020

Explosions In The Sky and Ireland have something of a mutual love affair, as implied by guitarist Mark Smith’s gracious address to the crowd that gathered at Vicar Street to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary and fourth visit to Dublin’s intimate venue.

Welcome support came from London-based Gothic-folk songstress A.A. Williams. Her minimal stage set-up – her voice, piano and keyboard backed-up by her touring bassist and deep blue lighting – stood in stark contrast to the headliners’ three-guitar attack and impressive light-show. Her style, however, proves that you don’t have to be loud to be heavy. Her voice resonated throughout the room, carrying the weight of her heart-wrenching ballads.

In the years since the release of their critically adored ‘The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place’, the band have come under a certain amount of fire as the perceived originators of the so-called “crescendo-core” sub-genre; the supposed gentrification of post-rock. But no originator should be blamed for its imitators, and the Texan instrumental rockers’ sonic innovations have been seminal; brutal and beautiful, technical and emotional in equal measure.

It comes as no surprise that Explosions in the Sky have been together for as long as they have. Their fluid musical interplay and smoothness of their transitions in-between songs and instrument changes were on full display on this night. Mark downed his guitar and grabbed a snare drum for the closing machine gun-like rounds of set opener Catastrophe for the Cure while band mate Michael James assumed bass duties from A Song For Our Fathers onward, both with such careless ease.

The band played relentlessly, trading layers of guitar noise with twinkly contrapuntal interludes in what was an emotional, earnest performance. As vital to the efficacy to the show was the band’s synaesthetic presentation. Back-lighting was coloured in tune with the feeling of each song and syncopated in time with each guitar arpeggio and crack of Chris Hrasky’s snare drum, coming to a sensory overload inducing crescendo during the penultimate song, Colors in Space. The ethereal soundscape and full spectrum projection gave off the effect of going through a time warp and ending up on Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road.

Exhilarating, overwhelming, and cerebral; Explosions in the Sky made their first appearance on Irish soil in four years one of mutual appreciation. A truly transcendent experience, they are not to be missed any time they come to town.