Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Explosions in the Sky @ The Congress Theater

In my review of Explosions in the Sky from a year ago, I said "the most impressive thing was that the crowd was completely rapt with attention." But that was at Metro, not the cavernous barn that is the Congress Theater. And in the year that has passed, the band has clearly become significantly more popular. I was curious to see if the stunning silences would remain intact.

I don’t believe the show sold out, but the fact that it was nearly full clearly means that something pretty neat is happening with music right now. This ain’t exactly the Dave Matthews Band. Last time, I wrote that their performance was what a “musical orgasm” sounds like (which, incidentally, brought some pretty interesting google searches to this site). I came away with a different feeling this time. Rather than the organic feel that dominated that show, the band seemed muscularly overpowering this time. When they perform live, everything ratchets up about three notches. These four guys in t-shirts are just up there playing, but pumping out incredible intensity. Downbeats come like the stomping of an elephant and crescendos push you back a step. Even in the Congress, they sounded fantastic, though my position right by the soundboard probably helped.I wondered at several points if they were playing something new. There were no new songs, but perhaps they’ve mixed things up just a bit. Certainly in the context of the live show, the songs feel as though they’re totally unique to that evening. The fuzz is fatter, the drumbeats punchier, and the four independent parts on stage meld to create a robust sound. The beginning of “Greet Death” felt like downright metal. “Catastrophe and the Cure” seemed faster, with more urgency to it. It was probably right at its normal tempo, but felt like it was racing downhill the whole time. Their closer, “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” finished dynamically and was the perfect capper to a stunning performance.

Unfortunately, I can not report that the crowd was rapt with attention like last time. Throughout the show, there was a lot of chatter, particularly the farther back you went. “Woooh!”s were shouted liberally, often inserted into songs at their most delicate of points. One guy shouted “Play Free Bird!” You got the sense that a lot of people wanted to make themselves heard, rather than support the band or get into their performance. To be sure, this was the minority, but it doesn’t take much to break the mood set by these song’s nadirs. The guy next to me felt the same way. At one point, people began clapping along and he uttered, "No!" While the clapping was fine, there were enough people that didn't "get it," at least not enough to give the music its proper respect.

Speaking of respect, after they finished their set, everyone cheered, wanting an encore. Guitarist Munaf Rayani came out, thanked everyone, and said that there would be no encore. Some people started booing. It was pretty appalling. He had to come out again five minutes later to reiterate that there would be no encore and that they’d put everything they could into the set. More people booed with someone loudly hollering “Bullshit!” This was not the scene at Metro a year ago. Had they turned the houselights on, perhaps this could have been avoided. Again, it was really just a few bad apples, but they were loud bad apples. We all felt bad for the band. They’d played an amazing show only to be booed by the loudest, jerkiest contingent.All of the nonsense hardly ruined the show. They put on an amazing, intense performance, and I highly recommend checking them out if you have the opportunity. Even if you don’t know their songs, it won’t matter. Just don’t boo them when they say they can’t play anymore.


Reed said...

Setlist (according to a fan on - but I'm pretty sure he's right):

Yasmin the Light
The Birth and Death of the Day
With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept
Your Hand in Mine
Magic Hours
Greet Death
Catastrophe and the Cure
The Only Moment We Were Alone

Anonymous said...

The cries of 'Bullshit' at the end definitely would have been avoided if they had just turned the lights on, but still. I was sick of people talking and yelling, especially during Lichens. I clapped at some bad parts, I suppose, but I was really into it. Great show.

Anonymous said...

wah wah wah