Concert Review: Interpol

Concert Review: Interpol

Thirteen years removed from Turn On the Bright Lights, Interpol still has something to give.

Interpol are still technically touring in support of their latest album, but the gloss of unfamiliarity has washed off of El Pintor, both for fans and the band itself. When the band plays newer songs like “All the Rage Back Home” next to classics from their debut Turn On the Bright Lights, it now seems less like obligation and more like that’s how the set works best, the songs blending together rather than clashing. It’s a testament to the return-to-form that is El Pintor that the record’s greatest tracks are highlights in a setlist of old fan favorites and minor hits. Interpol, it seems, are in a much needed period of revitalization.

On stage at the Fillmore Detroit, all four band members were distant and immobile, the lights burning behind them casting their figures as smokey silhouettes. Frontman Paul Banks glared at the crowd for minutes at a time as he sang, giving a sinister edge to his vocals. Similarly, the band’s lurking stage presence lent an ominous element to darker songs like “Leif Erikson” and “Hands Away.” Background visuals were provided by a live black-and-white video feed of band members warped with glitches and white noise that gradually cleared up over the course of the show. Sometimes the band’s emotional distance showed in a more dispassionate execution, as with the rousing background vocals on encore closer “All the Rage Back Home,” whose chants of “Hey, hey, hey, hey!” were mumbled with a painfully bored inflection that doesn’t suit the loud, upbeat crescendo. It’s hard to tell if these missteps should be attributed to tour fatigue or just laziness.

The group made up for their extreme stoicism with a nearly perfectly paced set, beginning with an appropriately rushed version of “Say Hello to the Angels.” The set gradually ramped down with El Pintor highlights like the propulsive “Anywhere” and a churning take on “My Blue Supreme,” and then into deeper and more popular cuts from Antics and Our Love to Admire. Interestingly, they only played one song from their mildly-received 2010 album Interpol, lead single “Lights,” which suggests either self-consciousness about fan reaction or even admission that it wasn’t good enough. Either way, it was the right decision, as Interpol showed that they know how to construct an interesting and dynamic set.

A year later, we can now see that early impressions of El Pintor as a dramatic return to form were mostly correct. Songs like “Anywhere,” “Everything is Wrong” and “All the Rage Back Home” gracefully blended with the best from Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics, and fans seemed just as eager to hear them. There were some performance and mixing problems: the bass, the band’s most critical support on studio tracks, was drowned in the low end of the guitars while Bank’s low mumbling vocals battled the volume of the drums. But those drawbacks aside, Interpol put on an elegant, engaging show. Their current tour solidifies El Pintor as one of their best albums, and even 13 years removed from Turn On the Bright Lights, it shows that Interpol still has something to give.

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