Explosions in the Sky
Radio City Music Hall, New York City
April 6, 2011
Aural Highlight: Without lyrics it’s tricky to recognize Explosions’ specific, 10-plus-minute songs, although the fairly small amount of the set dedicated to new material from Take Care, Take Care, Take Care was a compelling shift from more naggingly familiar works.
Visual Highlight: The lone fan who offered a standing ovation in the show’s median, later to be succeeded by a crowd ovation at the show’s close.
Obligatory Viral Moment: Unless standing ovations suddenly go viral, this show was more IFC than YouTube.
Best Show Ever Index: Without an encore, we’d still say 80 %, came away saying this was the best thing ever.
“Where’s Tim Riggins?” That was the first thought upon entering Radio City Music Hall, the slight orchestral upswing of ambient rock rising from the five musicians on its stage. Pondering the locale of a fictional TV character seems almost too obvious here; Austin rock band Explosions in the Sky and Friday Night Lights’ rural Texas town of Dillon established a symbiotic relationship during the show’s five seasons that’s now unshakeable. The band’s vocal-less tone was as integral to the characters and their deeply emotional arcs as the show now is to this band, even as they release a new album after the its swan song episode.
But even if one’s mind immediately drifted into fictional TV worlds, it didn’t linger there beyond the initial moments. As the four band members (plus a bonus percussionist/guitarist) rolled through instrumental numbers so vibrantly blissful, there was a gradual sense of physical disintegration. The walls, the seated crowd, the blazer-clad ushers faded away and it was only the rising soundscapes and sparse stage lights that remained.
The crowd, seated, polite and generally over 28, barely moved, save for a gentle head bob to the vibration of the drums. There were no words, no pauses and no differentiation between songs; each number was more like a movement in a lengthy classical work. So what’s to distinguish this performance from a transcendent rendition of an actual contemporary classical piece like “Blue Cathedral”? Probably those guitars and drums, decrepit signifiers of a genre. Or, maybe, it was that nagging feeling midway through “Your Hand In Mine” (from 2003’s The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place), looking at the lone decoration of a Texas flag on the otherwise bare stage, that you wanted to holler “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!” Either way, Texas forever.
Explosion in the Sky’s set list:
“Postcard From 1952″
“Birth and Death of the Day”
“Yasmin the Light”
“Last Known Surroundings”
The Only Moment We Were Alone”
“Catastrophe and the Cure”
“Let Me Back In”
“Your Hand in Mine”