Explosions in the Sky, Vienna Flex, 25 May 2008

A rare visit to the Flex for me to see the American post-rock outfit Explosions in the Sky, and another illustration of how concert-going in Vienna so often confounds one’s expectations. By no stretch could this group be described as well known, and their music is hardly the stuff of runaway commercial success. Yet the place was absolutely rammed to the ceiling.

Such situations bring out both the best and the worst in the Flex. On the one hand there was a heady atmosphere and, heck I’ll admit it, an extraordinary number of stunning girls in the audience. On the other hand, the awkward layout of the place meant that unless you were near the front ā€“ as I was not ā€“ the visibility of the group onstage could only be described as diabolical.

These hindrances meant that I wasn’t able to concentrate on the music as much as I would have liked. One might have expected the Flex’s legendary sound system to have mitigated these factors and compelled close attention, but there was surprisingly little sonic oomph to the proceedings. It just wasn’t loud enough.

No doubt Explosions in the Sky are tired of being compared to Godspeed You Black Emperor, but they do rather ask for it. The music sounded to me like GYBE without their core elements of burning injustice and maze-like intensity. There were plentiful fine moments, but the quiet/loud dynamics seemed rather stilted and predictable. And given that they were playing to such a large audience, I felt the group allowed the quiet passages to go on for too long when they should have been laying waste to the place with the thrilling eruptions of sound of which they are clearly more than capable. On more than one occasion they were in the midst of some white-hot crescendo which fizzled out just as it was getting under way. A case of too much sky and not enough explosions.

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