Live Review: Explosions in the sky – The Royal Albert Hall – 25th April 2016

Intense, atmospheric, and awe inspiring – Texan post-rock legends Explosions in the Sky take to the grandest of stages and deliver a landmark performance.

As a self proclaimed post-rock obsessive (in the past couple of years I have seen Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sigur Ros and Mono to name a few) needless to say I was rather excited at the prospect of seeing the band that has possibly come closest to perfecting the genre perform live at London’s magisterial Royal Albert Hall. The fact that this was also my first evening out since the arrival of my son made this an even more special evening, and I am so glad to say that the band didn’t disappoint, delivering one of the most intense and ‘explosive’ shows I have possibly ever seen.

The evening started with support band, the magnificently named, We Were Promised Jetpacks. Playing to a half full hall at the start of their set the Scottish band went full throttle into their noisy, epic indie, and by 20 mins in had drawn a big audience who were nodding along reverently and seemed particularly impressed by the singer’s powerful, heavily Scottish accented vocals. (How he can perform like that night after night without the need for some industrial strength Strepsils I will never know!) As WWPJ brought their set to a dramatic close, the crowds flooded in from the bars ready for the main event, and the sense of excitement and anticipation was tangible.

At this point it is worth noting just how amazing a space the Royal Albert Hall is. Surely there isn’t a better setting for a band like Explosions to perform their hybrid rock/classical instrumental material, and whilst the cavernous space can sometimes affect the intimacy for rock bands performing here, for EITS this was not going to prove a problem.

As the lights dimmed and the band took to the stage, following a quick “Hello, We are from Texas, thanks for having us” they let rip with a relentless non stop 90 minute set that left the audience breathless and awestruck from the get go.

Opening with the frenetic Tangle Formations from new album The Wilderness, they instantly got the audiences full attention, helped by one of the most innovative and spectacular lighting rigs I have seen. Consisting essentially of two strips of light along the floor in front of and behind the band, which could move, change colour and pulse in time with the intense rhythms, this gave the impression of the band being cocooned in light and cloud, an effect that added an otherworldly quality to the performance, and which was used at key moments throughout the set.

As usual with EITS gigs there was little or no space between songs, the band creating a continually evolving soundscape at times delicate and at other times ear drum bustingly loud, none more so than during a truly epic rendition of Greet Death. With the stage drowning in red light, the brutal guitar onslaught was literally pinning people to the back of their chairs…  I even saw a few people reach for their ear plugs so high were the volume levels.

Other highlights included the massive Let Me Back In, from the album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and a pumped up version of recent track Logic of a Dream which showcases how their new ‘quieter’ material can become seriously epic when performed in the live arena.

The stunning Colours In Space was perhaps the point when the lighting show really reached is peak, with the opening movement finding the band swathed in clouds of green and purple light, giving the impression that they were literally performing inside an aurora borealis. Truly breathtaking.

The set closed with the epic The Only Moment We Were Left Alone, with its multiple false endings ratcheting up the volume and intensity to its highest point yet to give a fitting and exhausting climax to a truly landmark show for the band. A small whispered “thanks” from the band followed, and then they were gone.

As far as live music experiences go, this goes down as one of the most perfect shows I have seen, where music, lighting, venue and audience were all perfectly in sync to create a special moment that I am so lucky to have been able to be part of.

Explosions in the Sky are still on tour, and bring the show back to the UK in The Autumn. If you like your music instrumental, loud and epic to the extreme, I highly recommend you get tickets now.

(And thanks for reading this, I know it is not technically a daddy blog, but I hope some of you found it of some interest!)

*I don’t own the rights to the above pictures. Thanks to the people on Twitter I borrowed them from, and drop me a note if you want me to remove them @tireddaddyuk

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