Interpol Verizon Wireless Theater October 29, 2010
Interpol should not have been at Verizon Friday night. Not by any traditional yardstick.
A decade or so after their first release, the Fukd ID #3 EP, Interpol is a genuine anomaly. In an age when image is everything in pop music - and all too often the only thing - the New York band projects an anti-image: Three not especially photogenic guys in dark suits. Nice, designer suits, but still. The closest thing Interpol had to a fashion plate, bassist Carlos D., left earlier this year to work on "personal projects."
That leaves the music, which on the surface seems as chilly and monochromatic as Interpol's photo shoots. Intimidating and predatory, even, and absolute anathema to mainstream modern-rock radio (in Houston, anyway) for its mixture of hipster jive and artsy, tortured introspection. Lyrics like "stabbing yourself in the neck" can yield some interesting Google results.
And yet there they were, onstage at Verizon in front of a crowd that - although it did not look, feel or seem like it - was actually larger than its counterpart at Ghostland Observatory's costume-clad club-beat riot a mile or so down Texas Avenue at Warehouse Live. So what gives?
The music, that's what. Sometimes it really is that simple, and live, Interpol is simplicity itself. Those songs that seem so frozen in place at first become magnetic and hypnotic, womblike cascades of guitar propelled by ex-Slint four-stringer David Pajo's bass and contained by Sam Fogarino's metronomic drumming.
And front man Paul Banks, whose rich baritone was like a lighthouse in the seas of dark blue and red Friday, is no tortured artist - he's a closet romantic. When he sang "you are the only person who's completely certain there's nothing here to be into" on the driving "PDA," it wasn't a brush-off, it was a bond between him and the audience (the ladies especially).
Interpol's songs are growers, so the songs from fourth LP Interpol, released last month, still felt transitory, starting with gauzy opener "Success." Luckily, they scattered them among a generous helping of older material, especially - and surprisingly - 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights.
Second song "Say Hello to the Angels," with its staccato guitar and insistent fog-light rhythm, might have reminded those old enough in the crowd of Iggy Pop's Berlin period, but there couldn't have been many. More importantly, it set up a perimeter that alternated fast-paced, sharply defined rockers ("Rest My Chemistry," the new, clubby "Barricade" "Evil") with hazier, more atmospheric songs ("Untitled," "Hands Away," "Let Me Take You on a Cruise") for the balance of the evening.
Aftermath is not sure how much more there is to say, honestly. Banks was the furthest thing possible from the stereotypically aloof Brooklyn hipster, saying howdy to the Texans several times and graciously announcing the new songs. Kessler grew more animated throughout the evening, widening the arc he flailed around the stage as his guitar lines likewise grew bigger and brighter. Keyboardist Benjamin Curtis was so unobtrusive that we didn't even notice him until Interpol's "Try It On" in the encore.
Interpol isn't the flashiest band out there - far, far from it - but instead of stiff and impersonal Friday, they were intimate and inviting. They don't need lasers to get their point across, just some solid guitar work, impeccable rhythms and an aura of mysterious beauty that, once you're initiated, is better than any costume party.
Always bet on black.
Personal Bias: Still warming up to Interpol (the album), but all things in their own due time. Especially with this band.
The Crowd: Mid-twenties to mid-thirties, good-looking, with only the occasional wig or pair of devil horns to serve as a tipoff it was Halloween weekend. And church camp compared to what was going on at Ghostland.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Dude, go get your fucking bitches, dude." Hey, that's what we wrote down.
Random Notebook Dump: Spoon front man Britt Daniel showed up to say hello to his buddies and openers White Rabbits, who still have a ways to go before they write anything as catchy, complete and overpowering as "Percussion Gun."
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Success Say Hello to the Angels C'mere Leif Erickson Summer Well Rest My Chemistry PDA Narc Untitled Barricade Hands Away Lights Evil Let Me Take You on a Cruise Not Even Jail
Obstacle 1 Try It On Slow Hands