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Concert review: Explosions in the Sky doesn’t need lyrics to send a message

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Explosions in the Sky performed at Newport Music Hall on Sept. 13. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Simonite

Explosions in the Sky performed at Newport Music Hall on Sept. 13. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Simonite

Explosions in the Sky does not need verbal communication to tell a story.

The instrumental band is touring in support of its newest record, “The Wilderness” which was released on April 1.  Rhythmic and complex melodies, fuzzy guitars and lights tell the story without the need of lyrics.

When the five-piece post-rock band from Austin, Texas, took the stage at Newport Music Hall Tuesday night, guitarist Munaf Rayini, briefly introduced the band. After that, the music was constant. Eleven songs faded in and out with seamless transitions.

In a live concert setting, the band’s sound enhances more than any headphones can do justice. At the start of the show, they opened with the first track of the newest record, aptly titled “Wilderness”.  From then on, each fan in the audience could feel every note that was being played, as evidenced by the amount of head banging.

However, Explosions in the Sky is much more than a loud instrumental rock band. The smooth progressions not only applied from song to song, but with dynamics as well. The band’s ability to play a range from frantic chords to soft guitar picking came across more clearly live than on any CD or streaming service.  

A perfect example of this change was in “The Birth and Death of the Day” which was released on its third record, “All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.” This song became much more impressive in the live setting, especially because of the emphasized dynamic shifts within the song.

Throughout the show, I also heard a shift in sound from this band. Even though its core sound remained the same, the band, especially in their last record, has experimented with electronic sounds that serve as background for the larger purpose of the piece.

Unfortunately, this was not the same for the opener Lower Dens. When the band members came on stage, their set up seemed simple enough. It was two people, Jana Hunter on guitar and Abram Sanders on drums, with a computer on the side. However, once the music started, the setup proved to be too simple. The computer was playing not only electronic beats to aid the crisp percussion by Sanders, but also the bass line and some piano parts. All the while, both of those physical instruments were clearly visible on stage for the headliners.  

Although Lower Dens’ songs were well suited as the opening act, especially with a haunting rendition of the Hall and Oates classic “Maneater.” However, the lack of bass created a lacking live experience and felt more like listening to the record. It did not create another dimension to the music as the headliners did in its set.

Explosions in the Sky has an unparalleled artistic maturity, almost as though they are in a concert hall as a classical music act. Its complexity and ability to tell stories just through guitars and a drum set is breathtaking.

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