Interpol at In The Venue

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It was a strange night at In The Venue.

We had initially purchased tickets to see Interpol at the McKay Center, a college arena in Orem.  Then we were told that the show had moved to In The Venue, a much smaller club in SLC.  Then we were told that The Shout Out Louds (who were initially supposed to be playing at The Urban Lounge–yet another club) would be joining the show.  Another band, Liars, was slated to be the opening act for Interpol.  Then the ticket price was dropped to ten dollars (are you detecting a theme yet?).  Given all that, you may imagine that we went to the show with some trepidation.

I have never been a particular fan of Interpol.  Listening to their recordings always left me a little cold.  So it’s fair to say that my expectations were low going in.  To make matters worse, when we arrived there was a line around the building to get in.  While we stood in the street waiting our turn to be groped by security, we could hear The Shout Out Louds starting to play inside, but not well enough to enjoy it.  We got inside just in time to hear the last couple songs, which were great.  The Shout Out Louds are definitely a cool band, what we heard of them.

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 Next up was Liars, and the less said about them the better.  Their outfits were the first tip-off that we were in for something odd.  The drummer took the stage wearing some kind of white overalls with splotches of multi-colored paint all over them, a glittery t-shirt underneath and a day-glo pink windbreaker and hood on top.  The lead singer came on stage after the others started playing.  He wore a white polyester 3-piece suit with a white shirt and tie and white sneakers.  Was he making some kind of joke?  Don’t know, but he didn’t seem nearly bright enough for that.  His stage banter was unbelievably bad and his tortured, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed dance moves were worse.  There’s no way you reach that level of lousy through simple lack of talent.  Mental illness may be involved.

We were left to wonder just exactly how a band like Interpol gets hooked up with a band like Liars.  After we pondered that question for what seemed like forever, Liars mercifully ended and Interpol eventually came on.  The members of the band are Paul Banks (vocals, guitar), Daniel Kessler (guitar, back vocals), Carlos Dengler (bass, keyboards – commonly referred to as Carlos D.) and Sam Fogarino (drums).  The thing you notice about Interpol right away is that they are stylish.  Seriously stylish.  Glittering drums, shiny guitars, sleek keyboards, black suits, black hat, black boots (cadillac).  Their bottled water was all Fiji, their guitars were all Gibson, even their roadies looked good.  You find yourself just staring at everything on stage and thinking “it’s…just…so…pretty.

As they began to play, I was prepared for the sort of impersonal, professional show that their whole vibe seemed to be geared for.  And there was something a bit impersonal about it.  Interpol doesn’t exactly go out of their way to connect with the audience, and they are a deadly serious band, with deadly serious, blood-loyal fans who had, by the time the band started playing, jammed the club from the floor to the rafters.  There’s no nonsense at an Interpol show.  No chit-chat, no banter, no stage talk between songs, no announcing the names of the songs or telling cute stories about how they came up with the tunes, none of that.  This contrasted sharply with Liars and provided us an opportunity to think about whether banter is generally a good thing or a bad thing (a subject discussed by Steve over on Kulturblog).  My feeling?  It depends on the banter.  If you don’t have a knack for it, better to keep quiet and let the music speak for you (Arcade Fire, I’m looking at you).

The crowd took their cue from the band: No moshing, no crowd surfing, no slamming, skanking or pogo-ing.  It seemed like the band had sent out a memo: “Do not detract from our vibe.  Under no circumstances may you throw off our groove.”  This band clearly isn’t down with any shenanigans.  Instead, they just play music.  And I have to say, it was kinda  refreshing.  This band takes itself seriously because, well, they’re seriously good.  They know what they’re doing.  

The frontman, Banks, has a voice that seems to come out of nowhere.  There’s no way he looks like he should have a voice like that.  It’s sort of Christopher Cross in reverse.  And he plays a mean guitar too (I was so envious of his black Les Paul–that is the guitar I want!), trading off lead and rhythm duties with Kessler, who is just plain awesome.  His hollow-body guitars were great to look at and sounded better than I ever imagined (based on their albums).  His soaring riffs stand out much more from the rest of the band when you hear him live.  Meanwhile, Fogarino and Dengler were stunning in the rhythm section, both together and in their brief solo turns. 

 Good music always sounds better played live, and Interpol is no exception to the rule.  They sound more raw, less polished, than in their recordings, and there’s just not a bad song in the lineup.  There was something (dare I say) U2-like about them.  Something strangely compelling about their approach to the music and the ringing sound of Kessler’s guitar.  I have to admit, they won me over.  I went into their show indifferent, but I left a fan.  This is a band I will pay to see any time.  Even if they are pretty.

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6 Responses

  1. I really like Interpol, a song or two at a time. But they sound _so_ much like Joy Division, I can’t do an entire album, usually. I find myself thinking “just put Joy Division on instead” too much.

    However the song “Take Me on a Cruise” is one I’ve played on repeat for hours.

    I’d be interested in checking them out live. If it didn’t cost too much. Like say, more than $15.

    BTW, in my experience, bands that share a bill are usually on the same record label, or use the same tour management company.

  2. Susan:

    Have you listened to their latest album? I think they sound less like a JD knockoff on that album than previously. That, and I like them better than JD, now. I think seeing them live really does help (as with most bands) because they really have their own thing going on in their show. They project a consistent, well-thought-out image that is original and compelling, I think. You should definitely see them if you can.

  3. Saying you like Interpol more than JD is blasphemy!

    I just got an email saying they’re playing at the Forum in LA. It’s a big arena. I don’t do arena shows, generally. I saw Megadeth there, but that’s an exception—my son’s favorite band.

    Have you heard the National? They remind me of Interpol a bit. Also Crash Test Dummies (singer has a very low voice).

  4. “Saying you like Interpol more than JD is blasphemy!”

    Ha! I knew you would say that. I do like The National, although I haven’t heard them much. I don’t know much about CTD and haven’t heard anything from them recently, are they still around?

  5. No, they were only around in the 90s, AFAIK.

  6. How r u? your website is cool
    I have a new band and we just had a live gig you can see here:
    http://tinyurl.com/7wmqct

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