Jan. 15, 2003
I expected one, there was no line to get in to see Interpol at the
Sokol Underground tonight, Jan. 15. I figured that the promoter
was crazy to have the show downstairs rather than up in the ballroom.
It turns out that the promoter was right as usual, because the Underground
was the perfect venue, both in capacity and ambiance. The promoter
wouldn't say how many paid, only that it was a sell-out, which was
obvious once you were inside and warm and out of the heavy show
that was pouring down in the street. The line to get in, when there
was one, was handled quickly and I didn't notice anyone getting
turned away. It might have been packed, but if the show had been
upstairs, it would have seemed half empty and hollow and less important.
it started, it was like any other Underground show, really. The
opening band, Calla, came on at around 9:45. Live, they didn't really
resemble the band on their new CD, Televise. Instead, the
music was medium-slow and throbby with an implied drone and vocals
that seemed lost in the haze. Though I like the CD, I thought they
were relatively boring on stage, with songs that did little and
seemed to go on forever. The person next to me said that I needed
to take the right chemicals to fully enjoy their set. I think he
was right -- this was trippy head music, something that you would
hear in the background of a cheap B-flick during the scene where
everyone takes acid and the cameraman tries to capture the "trip"
by zooming in and out on the actors' groggy faces.
it was a short set, maybe four or five songs.
along came Interpol, dressed in their usual black costumes. I remembered
how nervous and shallow and flat they sounded a week earlier on
The Late Show with David Letterman -- all that wonderful reverb
and echo on the vocals -- so integral to the CD -- had been completely
washed away by the fine folks at CBS. Tonight, however, was a different
story. Though they never strayed from the basic recorded compositions,
the band sounded much fuller, deeper, even more canyon-esque than
on CD. My comrade who stood next to me in the back of the room by
the soundboard, snagged the set list, printed out in plain, bold,
centered, 32 pt. san serif type. It said:
was also a two-song encore, but I don't know Interpol's music well
enough to tell you the songs' names. "Length" was their
new one, and stood out as being catchier than the others, but all-in-all,
was another typical Interpol song. For those who don't know what
this band sounds like, here's my take: Mid-tempo, brooding, chiming
repeated 16th notes, understated throbbing bass, back-beat kick
drum, controlled, stoic, Indian chant vocals a la deadpan Jim Morrison
sung in a forced Cloris Leachman-as-Nurse Diesel tone, all covered
in lots of reverb. When they really rock they're like Flock of Seagulls
without the big chorus.
sound was terrific. Their performance was dead on. Their stage presence
(other than their black suits) was non existent except for Carlos,
who managed to pull out an interesting swagger (though he seemed
less animated than when he was on Letterman). The additional keyboards
added depth and tone, especially to "NYC." On one song,
the keys and rhythm section reminded me of early Pet Shop Boys.
I'm sure that wasn't the intention.
crowd seemed to love it, though no one really danced. A few girls
in the back sort of wiggled on top of chairs, but for the most part,
people were just transfixed, staring at the stage.
dawned on me about three-quarters through their set just how static
Interpol's music really is. It's enjoyable, almost ambient and certainly
atmospheric. But this isn't rock music. Not really. I realized that
if I were 18 and driving around in an El Camino with a six-pack
on the bench seat on my way to the bar to meet some friends for
a night of drinking and trying pick up chicks, Turn on the Bright
Lights would be just about the last tape that I'd be putting
in my car stereo. They might be enjoying a certain amount of popularity
in the indie world, but this band, as they currently are configured,
will never be more than a niche act, an art display, a conversation
piece in an underground record store. And that's just fine with
show ended at midnight, and when we walked out (sweaty and smelling
of smoke), the snow had almost stopped.
Posted Jan. 16, 2003. Copyright © 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
It dawned on me about three-quarters through their set
just how static Interpol's music really is. It's enjoyable,
almost ambient and certainly atmospheric. But this isn't rock