[Overheard in the middle of the gig.]
Media type #1: Man, this is the strangest gig I’ve ever been to. I mean, I love the band, I love the music, but I’m the most bored I’ve ever been. I guess you have to be in the mood for it, and it’s just been a week of meeting people…
Media type #2: Yeah…
Interpol’s debut album – “Turn On The Bright Lights” – was, I now realise, titled ironically. The band are big fans of backlighting; so much so that at this Brixton Academy gig, it was sometimes difficult to work out if they were facing us or not. With the addition of a fog of stage haze, the music seems to come at us from an abyss – gloomy songs from a gloomy place.
Tonight, Interpol take a while to warm up, perhaps as their support band is the positively glacial M83. A chilly mix of Air-like mantras and big rock keyboards treated to sound like big rock guitars, the effect is overwhelmingly “French Artmusic”. Like Vangelis on a complete lack of amphetamines, they bash noisily through repetitive four chord structures over and over again. This sort of thing is probably impressive and widescreen on record; here it is rendered rather annoying by the muggy mixing, to the point where you’re begging them for a chorus, or a tune, or at least someone singing. I would also like to declare war on bands simply playing along to pre-sequenced music; No, we didn’t come here to watch you press a button and wait, motionless, on stage for two minutes til we get to “your bit”. Fuck off. Ultimately, M83 are epic to a fault. A shame. I was rather looking forward to them.
And I was looking forward to Interpol even more, so it’s a disappointment that they didn’t really hit their stride until a rather marvellous “Not Even Jail” about two-thirds of the way through their set. Yes, the band are tight, with Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler trading guitar parts across the left-hand side of the stage, flipping between rhythmic chops and complementary lead parts, and – thumping away behind them – the powerhouse rhythm section of the ever-impressive Sam Fogarino and – on bass – the greatest Charles Addams creation never committed to paper, Carlos D. But, like the media type standing behind me says, something’s missing. Perhaps it’s that the on-stage mix isn’t right – Banks seems distracted and drops lines – or perhaps its just the crowd’s overexposure to these songs recorded crystal clear on two exemplary albums, perhaps it’s just the fact that we can’t see the fuckers through the mist that means that great songs like “Evil” and “Slow Hands” are lost in a swampy first half of the set.
Later, the earlier, punkier material goes down well, and the band seem much happier standing in a tight little knot stage right, with their keyboard player banished to the dressing room. Maybe it’s lack of material, inevitable with only two studio albums, that means they have to play literally all of their slower, dirgier songs. However, what raises Interpol above being mere pseudo-goth posers is their intricate arrangements – the rare combination of four very talented people – and so occasional shakey gigs must happen.
How slightly disappointing that tonight was one of them.