The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Monday, Aug. 22, 2016
Before Monday night, it had been five years since Explosions in the Sky played in Dallas. Their last show here had been at the Winspear Opera House, and since then much has changed for the band, including their sound. But last night's set at The Bomb Factory, which saw the Austin-based band touring on this year's The Wilderness, was far superior as they gave the packed crowd a welcoming and powerful 80-minute set.
Heading into Monday's show, the big question was how the band's trademark sound — shimmering guitar lines backed by behind-the-beat drumming — would translate live given the reboot that took place. The Wilderness is driven by layers of keyboards, samplers and effects pedals, so it was hard to know how the older material would mix with the newer material.
The timing was always right for when those songs were played, and they fit right in. Led by Munaf Rayani on guitar, keyboards and occasional percussion, there was only one gap in sounds between the 11 songs played. Guitarist Mark Smith, bassist and guitarist Michael James, drummer Chris Hrasky and longtime touring bassist, guitarist and keyboardist Carlos Torres all played like their sanity depended on it.
As for the set list, there were fan favorites in there mixed with most of The Wilderness. "Greet Death" roared like a pack of wolves as the band was bathed in red light. "The Birth and Death of the Day" and "Catastrophe and the Cure" featured many goosebump-inducing outbursts. Newer songs like "Wilderness," "Tangle Formations," "Disintegration Anxiety" and "Logic of a Dream" added much more depth to the band's presentation. Lit by smoke and long rows of lights in front and behind the band, there was plenty to marvel at as the band swayed from one song to the next.
There's something about Explosions in the Sky that allows them to grow and get better with age. Maybe it's the band members themselves or the music they choose to create, but despite many imitators of their sound, it still is vital and fresh.
The opening band, for instance — Preoccupations, formerly known as Viet Cong — delivered 50 minutes of dreamy, psychedelic garage rock that sometimes teetered on being self-indulgent. But Explosions in the Sky's set never felt that way. It was more like a train ride through beautiful landscapes.
The band attracts the kind of fans that might only trip out to Radiohead and Pink Floyd, but they also attract the kind of post-hardcore fans who swear by The Appleseed Cast, as well as the post-rock fans that love Tortoise and Mogwai. Whether or not you loved the Friday Night Lights movie and/or TV show, for which Explosions in the Sky provided the soundtrack, you can come away from one of the band's shows happy, moved, relieved and hopeful. And this all comes from a band without a vocalist. Monday night's show was no different.