Maybe it’s due to the litany of comparisons Interpol receives to
the grand old post-punk bands of the early ’80s (Joy Division, The
Chameleons, etc.), but the crowd at Interpol’s State Theater show
on October 15th looked alarmingly upbeat, even fairly midtown.
Where one would expect a sea of black suits and rakish hair cuts,
many an audience member had a fleece jacket, a cell phone or even a
white baseball hat.
After a frustrating opening act from Texas ex-pats The Secret
Machines, whose cacophonous and booming act rarely translates well
live, Interpol, arguably the best dressed band in rock, took the
stage to a rousing set of screams and howls from the crowd.
Perhaps making up for the average coifs in the audience, lead
singer Paul Banks resembled a slightly more aloof Axl Rose in a
black fedora that covered an unsightly bird’s nest of hair. Wasting
little time, the band lurched into “Next Exit,” the satisfyingly
plodding album opener from their newest release, Antics.
Antics itself has been one of the most scrutinized
sophomore records in recent memory. After their urgent and
essential debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, in 2002, they’ve
been trust to the forefront of the NYC rock revival scene and split
time with The White Stripes and The Strokes as the critic’s choice
for The Best New American Rock Band. Interestingly enough, after
all the sprawling guitar lines and industrial drumming that drew
all those English post-punk comparisons, Interpol has shown a bit
of reserve in their new songs.
Banks drew a fair amount of criticism for his vocal resemblance
to Joy Division lead singer and punk messiah Ian Curtis, and while
Banks does have the same eerie drone as Curtis had, he’s shown a
new, more compelling persona. Much like Roxy Music’s Brian Ferry,
Banks has found the gloomy, rejected Don Juan within.
The crowd didn’t seem to care that much for evolution as the
finest song off Turn On The Bright Lights, “Obstacle 1 got
easily the largest crowd reaction as did “Roland” and “PDA.”
Slight problems with Banks’s guitar were remedied after a few
off-pitch minutes and aside from occasional moments of blinding red
light, the visuals were often dazzling. On stage, Carlos Dengler
strikes military poses with a low slung bass while guitarist Daniel
Kessler seems perpetually in motion, always slipping around the in
stage in some pseudo-hipster tap dance.
It was bizarrely comforting to see Interpol make bad decisions
toward the end of their set. Their final encore, “Stella Was a
Diver and She Was Always Down,” easily the weakest song in their
catalogue, came as a profound let down and their set was organized
expectedly (a song from Antics, a song from Bright
Lights, repeat). Was it the sound of a band sticking to the
playbook or was it the sound of band still in utero? Some shows
have been spectacular while others have been woefully uneven; Are
these slips coming from a growing laziness or are they still young
enough to make rookie mistakes?