Monday, April 4, 2011

Explosions in the Sky Concert Review

Explosions in the Sky concert on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at Amos' Southend in Charlotte, NC

The third post-rock show of the year for me.  And it didn't disappoint.  Amos' Southend was packed.  There were as many people there as there were at the Avenged Sevenfold and Black Tide show I went to back in '07, which I didn't expect considering the region's weak post-rock scene.  There are tons of kiddies in the Charlotte area, and neighboring areas, that love that A7X/Carolina Rebellion-type of music (you know tickets for Carolina Rebellion are going for $200-$300 now?), but there aren't a ton of kids that like post-rock.  The crowd really was surprising.  I got the vibe there were a lot of concert virgins there though.  I stood on the balcony to the left of the stage (from the audience's POV), with a bunch of kids who I think were part of a youth group.  There must've been twenty or more of them.  When the opening band, The Octopus Project, said "fuck" on stage, they all looked at each other in puzzlement.  Needless to say, regardless of the venue being packed, it wasn't the most vivacious audience I've ever been apart of.

The Octopus Project was a funky type of post-rock/electronic band.  They weren't mind-numbingly good by any means, but they were entertaining and fun to listen to.  I can see why EITS would choose them as an opener.  The chick in the band played one really weird electronic instrument that made noises according to the frequency she neared and distanced her hands from its motion sensor.  It made a high-pitched whirring noise.  I think the crowd really dug them.  They got about as much applause as Explosions in the Sky did.              

Explosions in the Sky Setlist:

1. Postcard From 1952
2. The Birth and Death of the Day
3. Your Hand in Mine
4. Last Known Surroundings
5. The Only Moment We Were Alone
6. Catastrophe and the Curve
7. Let Me Back In
8. Greet Death
9. Trembling Hands

They played a lot of their new material, which isn't as good as some of their older stuff.  "Postcard From 1952," "Last Known Surroundings," "Let Me Back In," and "Trembling Hands" are all from their 2011 release Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.  I think it's a pretty solid album - not the best I've heard this year - but solid.  Explosions in the Sky isn't going to write a 'bad' album.  But it's pale in comparison to The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, How Strange, Innocence, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, etc…  They did play two songs from The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, which was nice.  I really really really wanted to hear "First Breath After Coma," but I don't think it'll be on a setlist for this tour.       

Their sound was ace live.  I think the dynamics of what this band does come across beautifully in a dark venue.  They're one of those few bands that I'd actually say sound as good, if not better, live than on a disc.  The guitar tone is crystal clear.  The drumming is very martial in tone.  That is, instead of playing a 4/4 kick heavy drumming style, Hrasky plays more tom and snare - the type of drumming similar to what you'd hear in a marching band.  It helps to push the music during a slower, arpeggio paced song.  When the drum beat speeds up, it's usually when the guitars are going hard and heavy.  This band is centered around their beautiful guitar work though.  Three guitar players, at times, and one bass, interlocking melodies.  They can go loud and aggressive and they can be soft and sensitive.  Like a lot of post-rock bands, many of their songs are crescendo driven.  They build up slowly before reaching a climax.  They are very technically proficient.  They excel in playing and feeding off each other.  Their style makes for a magnificent live performance.

I was so damn hungry during this show though.  I feel like I could've enjoyed it even more if I hadn't have been thinking about eating.  

It's easy to see how this band has become such a massively influential post-rock giant.  They maintain their loyalty to the first wave of post-rock, but stray enough to create their own brand of innovation.  I think they're close to solely responsible for this new wave of post-rock we're hearing these days.  While their brand can't rival the GY!BE's and ASMZ's of the world, it's certainly created it's rightful spot in the genre.  I look forward to seeing what direction it will take in the future.     

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rush Concert Review

Rush "Time Machine Tour" concert on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC

There were three negatives going in.  One, I knew I had to be a ticket scalper since one of the guys I bought a ticket for backed out on me a few weeks ago.  I told him I'd try to sell his ticket at the door, but if I couldn't, he'd owe me the price of the ticket.  Two, since this show was inexplicably rescheduled from Friday, April 1 to Saturday, April 2 sometime earlier this week, it meant missing the Final Four.  Three, I knew what they were going to play before I ever even entered the coliseum. I don't think the set list has changed once since the start of the first leg.   

Rush Setlist:

1. The Spirit Of Radio 
2. Time Stand Still 
3. Presto 
4. Stick It Out 
5. Workin' Them Angels 
6. Leave That Thing Alone 
7. Faithless 
8. BU2B 
9. Freewill 
10. Marathon 
11. Subdivisions 

- - - Intermission - - -

12. Tom Sawyer 
13. Red Barchetta 
14. YYZ 
15. Limelight 
16. The Camera Eye 
17. Witch Hunt 
18. Vital Signs 
19. Caravan 
20. *Drum Solo* 
21. Closer To The Heart 
22. 2112 (Part I: Overture & Part II: The Temple of Syrinx)
23. Far Cry 


24. La Villa Strangiato 
25. Working Man 

Three men on a stage have never produced such a sound.  It was the best classic electric rock vibe I've ever heard live.  These guys can PLAY.  Peart delivered an awesome drum solo, as I expected him to, complete with a rotating "time machine" drum kit.  This concert went on and on and on and on and on, it clocked out after at least three hours.  After Subdivisions, Geddy said "were old men… we need a break."  A twenty-minute intermission ensued.

Rush has experimented with different sounds throughout their career, and the purpose of this tour, as presented in the title of the tour, was to take the audience through the decades to experience their prowess and amazing repertoire.  Many think of Rush as a very serious band that's all music and no play, others as some type of alternative heavy metal; but they are neither.  They are a fun-loving progressive rock band, and they smiled often and danced around on stage simply having fun while displaying amazing musicianship.  The first set had some great stuff, including one of my favorites, "Leave That Thing Alone," an instrumental with some really catchy guitar work.  "The Spirit of Radio," "Time Stand Still," "Freewill," "Marathon," and "Subdivisions" are all great songs.  There was a large screen behind the stage they played films on.  Often it was a clock counting down to a particular year - usually signifying the year of a particular song release of the song getting ready to be played, or in one case, an album release.  During the intermission, the clock counted up to 1980, the year Moving Pictures was released.  At the start of the second set, "Tom Sawyer" came on and they played Moving Pictures in full.

They also played some material from their upcoming release, Clockwork Angels, notably, "BU2B," and "Caravan."

They only played the first two parts to 2112.  I would've loved to see the whole thing played.  But it is a twenty-minute song… and they played for over three hours as it was… I guess these old men can only do so much.  

But for old men, they still rock pretty hard.