EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY
Support for the evening comes from ENTRANCE, who, alone on the Philharmonic stage, seems stranded and disconnected. After requesting the lights turned low, and announcing that he won’t tune his guitar despite it needing tuning, he fails to ignite the interest of those who’ve emerged from the bar, those who’ve been driven by having heard good things about him prior to the gig. There is undoubtedly something there, though, in his long drawn out melodies and lyrical sketches. Yet, it’s the worsening of his guitar sound – all dissonant and detuned top end – and the relish he seems so keen to take in his lack of engagement with the audience which leaves, to our mind, much room for improvement. Maybe just a one off, a bad night, but sadly, the bar, and a stiff GnT wins out in the end.
In Liverpool, there can surely be a no more appropriate venue, nowhere better suited for an EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY gig than the Philharmonic Hall. Designed with acoustics in mind, its vast stage also provides the ideal visual setting, the perfect grandiose backdrop for the sheets of colour, and the curtain of light behind which the Texan five-piece take their place. A beautiful venue designed with beautiful music in mind, it is a marked difference from the Barfly Loft, the venue for their last Liverpool show, way back in 2004. This hall is a very different place. A place where their own brand of post-rockian cascades of sound can tower above the audience, lifting them through the dynamic spaces in the music, the builds, the attack and the delay. And what leaps, what dynamics. From delicate minimalism one moment to huge triumphant waves of sound in a breath, the band are seemingly pulled along by the music in heads-down slack necked concentration, as the music contorts and displaces the expectations of the audience, pinned back in their seats, welcoming every movement. Such is the interplay of sound onstage and the acoustics of the majestic venue, that at times we’re convinced we hear melodies that maybe aren’t there, guitar lines that maybe aren’t being played.
Each piece effortlessly blends together with few breaks in between, again a reminder of the classical, filmic composition of their sound. And thereby hangs a tale. While it’s comfortable and tidy to be able to box Explosions In The Sky up under the ‘post-rock’ label, it also seems insubstantial in many ways. These pieces of music are more like mini symphonies, more devised than written, with the parts placed in and around each other, counterpoint upon counterpoint. The interplay between the players, their instruments, and crucially, the effects, surround and enfold us in drop-jawed wonder. Added to this is the sheer volume of those huge, crashing waves of sound, pounding the synapses and the ears into submission, on what must surely be one of the loudest nights in the history of the Philharmonic Hall.
While it’s always something of an unthankful task to highlight any specific tracks in a set list of highlights, special mention must go to The Only Moment We Were Alone from The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place. Here is a piece of work some 13 years old, which reveals more of itself on each fresh listen, perhaps more so in the live context. From the opening crash of cyclical distortion through the interlayered layers of guitar, with the whole Hall bathed in a deep purple glow, each twist takes on new life, bringing new tones and new colour. Wilderness, taken from this year’s In The Wilderness album, is another undoubtable favourite, all shimmering rhythms and reverbed piano lines, staccato guitar stabs and huge, sweeping statements of bass drone underneath. The new album features largely in this performance, a work of vast beauty that’s already much loved by the devotees at The Philharmonic Hall who crowd together in Hope Street after the show, ears still ringing, hearts still palpitating, exactly as impressed as they’d expected to be, perhaps more so. Together we hope for a speedy return, as another 12 years would be far too long a wait.