PIAF: Explosions in the Sky Deliver a Staggering Show at the Festival Gardens
I have seen more artists live than I can count- from forgettable pub bands to metal bands to stadium-worthy pop stars. And of the lot, I think it’s safe to say that, last night, Explosions in the Sky edged out the iconic Arcade Fire as the best I've seen to date.
The night started off in chill fashion, with the local Dream Rimmy entertaining the early birds and passers-by at the Garden Stage. Fresh from opening the Fremantle edition of Laneway, their dream pop vibes were the perfect fit for such an occasion, going over easily with the crowd and instigating many a head nod. They were an excellent accompaniment for a pre-show drink and chat, preparing us all for the stunning night ahead.
As the Chevron Festival Gardens doors opened and people entered the venue, the magnificent city skyline proved a winning backdrop to the stage. Perth country/blues rock veterans The Kill Devil Hills started the night proper with an energised set, sounding not unlike The Drones, only with more acoustic guitars, violins etc. While they joked about being “an unusual fit for a band with less words than this sentence,” (or words to that effect) they nonetheless won the crowd over with their pounding drums, tight performance and magnetic presence. As their set went on, the crowd gradually inched towards the front, ready for the headline act.
Explosions in the Sky marked their presence on the night instantly. After a grateful welcome from Munaf Rayani, they started their set with a bang in the form of “The Birth and Death of the Day” (from 2007’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone). About an hour and a half of non-stop instrumental rock followed, with not a single dull moment.
Just as on record, EITS are experts at pacing a set. Their masterful show featured dramatic crescendos, some of the loudest guitars you’ll hear on this side of metal, and some gentler, delicate moments; at one point, it was so quiet you could hear the sound of an alarm somewhere in the distance. Despite frequent instrument swaps, sample triggering and guitar tuning, the set flowed remarkably, with not a moment of total silence. Songs from their latest album The Wilderness slotted in seamlessly with cuts from their wider discography, so that fans of any of their work were satisfied. Every now and then, the mix went a little bit off. The bass would be too loud, or a guitar wouldn’t be turned up enough, or there was feedback coming from somewhere. This, of course, comes with the trade, and never undermined the set entirely.
When performing this kind of music, it would’ve been easy for the band members to stand still and simply play. Explosions, however, brought with them an intense energy I have barely seen in a live act before. Rayani was the most animated of the lot, swinging his guitar about the stage, at one point throwing it about by its neck. This passion elevated their music to a point well beyond pretty background music, drawing you into their world and blowing your mind with their unabashed enthusiasm for making pretty sounding, evocative songs. This was heightened by a stellar lights show, complimenting each song. “First Breath After Coma” was an undeniable highlight, but picking individual songs in a show like this feels like missing the point. As flashing rainbow lights and driving bass gave way to the unmistakable guitar riff that introduces “Your Hand in Mine”, the crowd went wild, shouting their approval.
The set closed with two highlights; a newer cut, “Disintegration Anxiety”, featuring what might become one of the most iconic guitar riffs of their career, then “The Only Moment We Were Alone”, a favourite from their defining album The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. As “The Only Moment…” ended on a crazed climax and the band thanked the crowd and filed off stage (there was, understandably after such a set, no encore), there was not a single person in the audience who wasn’t awed by what they just witnessed. We can only hope that they return sooner than later, because this was a show I would pay good money to see again, and again, and again…
Make sure you check out our interview with Mark Smith from Explosions in the Sky!