Thursday, October 3, 2013

Concert Review | Explosions in the Sky at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis

Photo by Jason Gonulsen

"Sing, motherfuckers!"

That's what the woman was yelling behind me, midway through Explosions in the Sky's opening set for Nine Inch Nails on Tuesday night at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.

Oh, ma'am. I know they're not singing any words. But, they do sing.

And, yet, I know exactly how you feel.

A year ago, right around this time, I needed something, anything, to keep me from losing my mind. Often, I felt I needed words. I needed to scream something. I had no idea what I wanted to scream.

I found my answer in something simple: patience.

And if I could huddle all of us together for a moment, perhaps we could go back in time and experience what I saw Explosions in the Sky do in real life. Of course, that isn't possible, but let's pretend, or just simply believe for a few minutes. Because imagine a band who, with careful precision, can create any sound it wants, without once using a set of vocal cords.

This is immediate music if you want it to be, but it's okay if it isn't. The beauty is found in the crucial moments when things change, when Michael James switches from bass to electric guitar, when Munaf Rayani and Mark Smith crouch down low to control feedback, when the first moments of "The Only Moment We Were Alone" hit the air.

Those moments happened on Tuesday in St. Louis, and they came after a splendid version of "Let Me Back In," which ran around 10 minutes, complete with noises that sounded like children whispering. It felt like something out of Poltergeist, only there was no white noise, and there was no television. Still, they were here, right in front of us.

More on "Let Me Back In." It's the closing track on 2011's Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and like any Explosions in the Sky instrumental, it's a complex creation. It speeds up, slows down, does a waltz, and then blasts you with a natural convulsion of release. Then it fades, in a good way. It's a perfect way to end an album, which would have also been a perfect way to end a 45-minute performance. But, instead, it led brilliantly into The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place's "The Only Moment We Were Alone," a song that relies on pinch harmonics (thanks, Dan) for beautiful effect.

It also relies on patience from the listener, which isn't easily found in a Nine Inch Nails audience. I understand the urge to go in "just kill time mode," which I've done during during opening sets, too. It's just a shame when the opener is such a wonderful band like Explosions in the Sky, a group of musicians with guitars who need every moment to be precise in order for their creations to be presented properly.

What I'm saying is this: I believe that timing and living in the moment are both crucial elements when it comes to listening to music. In the wrong moment, the greatest song or melody may have zero effect on you. In right moment, one song that touches you can mean everything, and can lead to further discovery. Case in point, about two years ago, I happened to stumble upon Explosion in the Sky's "Your Hand In Mine," a song that wasn't played on Tuesday evening, but it's a tune I'll always carry with me.

Just remember, there is effort on your part: you must let these moments in.

For a report on Nine Inch Nails' headlining set, please jump over to the RFT Music Blog and read Allison Babka's wonderful description of the evening.

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