(10/18/10 in Oakland, CA) Remember those extra-special concert experiences back in the day when your ears were fresh and new? You’d wake up the next day still basking in the afterglow, carefully planning the rest of your school outfit around the obligatory concert t-shirt and listening to only that band's music for the rest of the week? Yeah, that's Interpol.
To be fair, the eager anticipation of the crowd contributed greatly to the energy; neither frantic nor manic, a frisson of excitement and some premature cheering rang through the theatre when the stage lights dimmed during last-minute equipment checks. When the house lights ultimately fell, the audience made it abundantly clear it was more than ready to take what Interpol was bringing.
Charging straight into a well-balanced set-list from across their oeuvre within moments of finally arriving on stage to that slightly delirious greeting, Interpol channeled The Pixies, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Chameleons UK and, strangely, The Ed Sullivan Show. With four oversized movie-set floodlights on tripods framing the stage and what looked like slices out of a pipe-organ wall formed into a horizontal diamond shaped backdrop, the set was reminiscent of a '50s TV show, although lead singer Paul Banks in a plaid flannel shirt went a little more casual than his bandmates in period-appropriate slim black suits.
Peppering their most familiar hits throughout the set, the band quickly gained momentum with their third song of the night, “C’mere” from what is arguably their best album, Antics; “Rest My Chemistry” from Our Love to Admire a few songs later; then “Narc” and “Mammoth.” Now about three-fourths into the show, they allowed “Try It On” from their recently released eponymous album to devolve into a drum solo and what appeared to be technical difficulties for guitarist Daniel Kessler, but eventually reignited into one of their biggest hits and Rock Band favorite, the powerful rhythm-driven “PDA.” After just a few minutes respite at the end of the set, the band came back to wild applause for a 3-song encore capped off by their classic “Slow Hands.”
After a few mutations over the years, Interpol is now made up of just three core members, with the well-selected additions of bassist Dave Pajo and keyboardist Brandon Curtis to flesh out the live band. Their sold-out Monday night show at the Fox Theatre in Oakland was the best sort of concert experience, when the clarity of sound and confident musicianship allows you to discover all new melodies and layers in songs you thought you knew intimately from the recordings.
Early comparisons to Joy Division, if it’s not already apparent after a listen to their subsequent recordings, are completely off-base and fade even further into the gloom when seeing Interpol live. There is a genuine mutual appreciation and comfortable joy between the band and audience without many words said – no pervasive underlying depression or insecurity here. Guitarist Daniel Kessler demonstrates periodically with Fred Astaire-style happy feet; he’s the most animated of the bunch on stage, shuffling around and engaging with the front rows. Not as pose-y as The Editors nor as reticent as New Order, these guys just put on a great straightforward rock show.
If this were 1984, I'd proudly be wearing an Interpol tour t-shirt to school today.
Standout Tracks: "PDA," "Narc," "Slow Hands," "Obstacle #1"
For Fans Of: The Strokes, Editors, Pixies