Five years ago (almost exactly five years ago, actually) was the first time I saw Explosions in the Sky live, and to this day I would count it among one of the best shows I have ever seen. So when the band announced a Vancouver show on their current tour, in support of their latest album The Wilderness, I knew there was no way I was going to miss it. They were playing a pair of shows at the Commodore Ballroom, the first of which was sold out.
Unfortunately I was delayed getting in, so I missed the opener Only Wolf, getting inside the venue as he was leaving the stage. But it wasn't long after that before the Austin, Texas five piece took the stage, Munaf Rayani stepping up to the sole microphone and thanking us for coming, before they launched into the music, not saying another word until the show was over.
Their set was an hour and a half of a post-rock symphony, with songs seamlessly flowing into one another, the explosive peaks and the simmering lows of each song barely giving the audience time to catch their breaths. They evoked intense emotions without a single lyric sung, and had the sold out room hanging on their every note; no easy feat for an instrumental band.
I also wanted to talk about the lighting, because I feel it played an integral part of the atmosphere to the show. When they began, they were backlit, just silhouetted among the fog, and as the show went on the lights pulsed and faded along with the music, a row of lights surrounded the band, pointing straight up through the ample smoke; just enough to make it moody, not too much you couldn't see. The lights danced around the band, at one point even shimmering like the Aurora Borealis, and combined with the fog catching the lights it created an almost otherworldly feel, a perfect mood to match their music.
Throughout the set they played mostly from their new album, starting off with the opening track, "Wilderness", and my current favourite "Logic of a Dream" being a highlight part way through the set. Older tunes were peppered in as well, with "The Birth and Death of the Day" and "Greet Death". The hour and a half flew by like nothing before they closed with "The Only Moment We Were Alone" from the album The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, and as the song fading down to near-death, the band was once more silhouetted in blue smoke, before erupting into an intense wail of guitars and cacophony of drums, somehow managing to top the intensity of the last hour, culminating with an ending that involuntarily made me actually exclaim, out loud, "Holy shit!" as soon as they finished.
And clearly the rest of the Commodore felt the same, as there was thunderous cheers when Rayani once more stepped up to the microphone, thanked us again for coming, hoping he'd see us again the next night, for their second of two shows, as people chanted for one more song. But to be honest, it was pretty much the perfect ending and I was more than content than they left it there.
Catastrophe and the Cure
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
The Only Moment We Were Alone