words & photos by Sarah Rix (@sarahrix)
“…Thanks so much everybody. That was fucking awesome.”
I’ve talked before about never discounting the impact of nostalgia. For many bands out of the early-aughts indie rock scene, it’ll forever define their image to the public. You’ll hear the familiar refrain of a song – one that used to be one of only 2,000 songs that could fit on your trusty blue iPod Nano – and you’ll remember the band, but more importantly you’ll think about where you were when you first listened to them, the emotions that went along with those (at times angsty) teenage years, and then you’ll think of all the other bands around that scene.
So yeah, for a group like Interpol, there’s a big element of that in their live show. Thankfully, though, they’re also not ones to rest on their laurels and, as a result, they’ve never seemed like a tribute to Interpol’s greatest hits. Even in spite of the lineup changes. Interpol still seem like a band you should be paying attention to.
Coming through Melbourne’s Palais Theatre as a sideshow stop from Falls Festival, Interpol was preceded with an offering of some psychedelic jams from Perth’s Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – taking the time to note how thrilled they were to be opening for a band they all grew up listening to.
The beauty of a Psychedelic Porn Crumpets opening set is, perhaps, the fact that you don’t need to know much about them to enjoy what they do. They’re talented, they swing for the fences, and if you’ve ever wondered what Tame Impala crossed with Jimi Hendrix might sound like, you’re probably going to be curious about the four-piece.
Heavy riffs and hair flips sold the show and, if you squinted your eyes hard enough from the top of the Palais nosebleeds, you could almost picture you were in the back of a 70s station wagon with the volume on full.
Of course, the choice fo a seated venue for Interpol was perhaps a bit of an odd one. But if row upon row of seated bodies deterred the band in any way, you’d never have been able to tell – though vocalist Paul Banks’ deep delivery might suggest otherwise.
Credit should go to their lighting designer with moody, dystopic-discotheque lighting and the use of three disco balls keeping the visuals interesting. The latter of which featured heavily on set opener “Pioneer to the Falls”, as well as on “NYC” from the band’s seminal 2002 debut, Turn on the Bright Lights.
They’ve been busy since, releasing five subsequent studio albums – including 2018’s Marauder, a well-received record. Songs “Complications”, “If You Really Love Nothing”, “NYSMAW”, “Number 10”, and “The Rover” all made the cut for the setlist in Melbourne – the latter of which a highlight of the night, with guitar work from Daniel Kessler setting the stage for follow up, “Number 10”, as well as “Complications”.
The band did have to work through some sound issues, initially. A problem with the mix had Banks’ vocals sitting on top of the instrumentals. Lyrics were drowned out and, for all of Banks’ many attributes (including his lyricism), a particularly nuanced vocal is perhaps not one of them. As a venue, the Palais plays well to a lot of singer-songwriters. For a rock band, this perhaps isn’t an asset and, as a result, it felt like Banks was too predominate and fighting against the music.
Thankfully, by the time the five-piece got to “Say Hello to the Angels” (another from their debut), their sound engineer had fixed the issue and cohesion reigned. This was of particular importance on a song that emphasises shifting tempos to the extent that it does.
By the time they got to “Slow Hands”, the crowd was finally ready to stand in the front rows – loudly encouraging Interpol back for a three-song encore.
Antics’ “Evil”, with its distinctive bass line and cool vocal delivery was another big moment in the band’s 19-song set, ending it off with “Obstacle 1” – Banks telling the crowd: “Thanks so much everybody. That was fucking awesome.”
With a consistent capacity to create songs so uniquely-Interpolian while straddling that fine line between old and new, the New York City band has long established their place in indie rock history (and read more about their massive influence in Meet Me in the Basement if you haven’t, yet.)
Nostalgia is powerful. It’s even more powerful when you’re able to combine it with a reason to still be excited about what’s to come.