Explosions In The Sky in Vicar Street, Dublin, on April 20th 2016
Surely this is one of the last gigs you would expect to see that hoary old concert cliché – the lighter in the air – rolled out at a moment of high emotion, but there it is; lone and aloft as instrumental post rockers Explosions In The Sky come towards the end of their Vicar Street performance. Their last visit to the Dublin 8 venue was back in 2011 off the back of ‘Take Care, Take Care, Take Care’, and now it’s the turn of their seventh, ‘The Wilderness’, to have its live routing.
“Bear with us as we try to play some new songs” guitarist Mark Smith asks of the crowd, as strobe flares pulse in unison with the heartbeat of a synth, silhouetting the five men onstage as they broach the sonic event horizon. Two strips run along the front and rear of the stage, an ingenious device that encases the band in shafts of light, surrounding them as if playing behind the bars of a translucent cage. As the church organ motif dissipates, Smith sways behind his synth, legs sprawled, while Munaf Rayani at the opposite side kneels at his pedals, generating the morass of noise that will typify the night. Suddenly, the light effect drops at the end, removing the illusory barrier to fully release the players.
It’s an almost unbroken set, an almost full venue, and the band – still fresh at the start of the tour – is fighting fit. With the stage now encased within a box of red light, Smith bangs the body of his guitar off the ground while both Michael James and the band’s additional touring musician wield bass guitars – not for the last time during the set – a rumbling dual menace in the low end heft stakes. With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept seems a brief respite in the set – amid the occasional moment of silence – despite the abrasive pedal effects that bookend it.
James assumes sole bass duties for Disintegration Anxiety before the set almost takes a faux disco slant, all chiming guitars and synths and pulsating rainbow lighting. The latter section, though, is where things become most dense, and with those spaced intro chords of Logic of a Dream trampled by the rumbling floor toms of Chris Hrasky the band seem to physically draw that bit closer to one another towards the climax.
The quintet begins Memorial cloaked in stage smoke, a slow build. The solitary flame appears in the crowd; a moment of mirth…how could it not be? As the song climbs to its noisy crescendo, each man slashes their strings with upraised arms, four guitars; a final punishing hammer of the chords. There’s no encore. There’s no need for one. That was as densely packed a set as a band should deliver – seamless and sure-footed, and gloriously loud.