Live review: Interpol

02 Academy Brixton

Monday 6 December 2010

9/10

After the departure of bassist Carlos Dengler, many fans were apprehensive of what the future held for Interpol; while the frustrated, gothic mantis helped in writing and performing on the self-titled album, people (including myself) were beginning to wonder whether this was a public sign of a private admission that the band may have run its dark, uncharted course. However, on the basis on a storming performance at Brixton Academy, Interpol emphatically proved their doubters wrong, leaving us with no other alternative than to suggest that they are simply bigger and better than ever before.

Surfer Blood offered good support, and while a few tracks were of the filler variety, there is simply no doubting the quality of the likes of ‘Swim’, which is impossible not to chant along to. With a few more killer tracks, big things surely await the young Americans.

Interpol are often labelled under the generic ‘indie’ term, but that would be to ingore the murky rhythmic origins of their music, with driving drumbeats, creeping keys and basslines that are often at the heart of the songs; if you could bottle paranoid disco, then Interpol would undoubtedly be the mysterious, sharply-dressed cartel holding all the aces. Although Dengler no longer provides a brooding, cocksure stage presence, the rest of the New York five-piece looked calm and confident with sharp suits and even sharper guitar lines. While they haven’t ‘gone fashionable’ like Kings of Leon (trading hair and whores for gel and jeans), the attire provides an onstage persona for the band that lets the music do the majority of their talking. With Dengler no longer strutting around, Paul Banks seems to have fully stepped into the limelight as the lovetorn leading man.

His vocals have suffered on occasion when live, but tonight he was majestic, offering a resigned, broken melody to ‘Rest My Chemistry’. The song has dragged in the past, but was buzzing here with the ordered chaos of a breakdown. ‘Barricade’s relentless, infectious groove prompted a mass sing-along, while ‘Success’ was simply spine-tingling. The crowd was incredibly receptive, which was heartening for a Saturday night; everyone was in good spirits, and they’d probably necked a few as well by the sounds of it.

What was genuinely surprising was that while the new album works extremely well as a cohesive listen, it was starling to see just how well new tracks such the spine-tingling ‘Lights’ stood alongside old classics; the self-titled release is a slow-burner, but the ambitious approach paid dividends as Brixton Academy felt the full force of new tracks such as ‘Memory Serves’.

‘Slow Hands’ hit the crowd like a freight train skidding along icy tracks, sounding like a celebration letting a little light into a dark place. The band ended the set with ‘PDA’, prompting a wave of enthusiasm from the crowd being reflected in guitarist Paul Kessler’s joyful bounding. The encore featured the soaring ‘Untitled’, hit favourite ‘Evil’ and ended with ‘Not Even Jail’, a bass-driven track that represents everything that Interpol seem to be striving for.

While Interpol seem to have emphatically stepped out of Dengler’s haunting shadow, it’s reassuring to see that at the band’s core remain committed to retaining the dark, beating heart of before; their music is a plea to reflect on life as much as it is one to find the nearest dancefloor, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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