Interpol – Terminal 5 – November 24, 2014
Image always matters in popular music, perhaps more than it should. So when Interpol emerged in 2002, pouncing like a fenced-in Doberman onto New York City’s then indeterminate alternative-rock scene, they evenly struck the balance between style and substance with impact. Theirs was a convincing symbiosis. The music was at once emphatic and intricately textured, catchy yet with cerebral and ambitious arrangements, and their image of midnight coolness mirrored it effortlessly, lending the mystique and credibility to a style of rock that was commanding and often imposing. Their debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights, was the soundtrack to Friday nights in NYC, with all of its promised deviousness to be found in the shadows and around corners.
Twelve years—and four albums, including the freshly released El Pintor—later, and Interpol return for a homecoming, beginning on Monday a sold-out three-night run at Terminal 5. With the glimmering bravado underlying the elegance of a veteran band, they played with the purpose of cementing their legacy. Armed with a classic like Turn On the Bright Lights makes it easier to throw around your weight, and an abrupt announcement of their stature was delivered with the opening statement, “Say Hello to the Angels,” a stalwart number off their first record. An assertive turn into new material, like “Anywhere” and “Everything Is Wrong,” was deftly interwoven with the invigorating “Take You on a Cruise” and the crowd-pleasing “Evil,” with its whimsical flavoring of ’50s-era Jerry Lee Lewis rock and roll over their trademark rhythmic surge. Quite suddenly, the divide between stage and audience disappeared like a bridge in the fog as Paul Banks’s haunting, serpentine vocals took turns with Daniel Kessler’s shimmering guitar chords, elevating the icy operative-like persistence of Sam Fogarino’s drumming.
Ruminative pieces “Lights” and the “The Lighthouse,” pulled along by the Kessler’s sultry strumming, echoed just long enough amidst the black sea of currents projected behind them, before giving way to the climactic flourish that everyone knew was coming: The show culminated with “PDA” and its wondrous cascading finale. By night’s end, Interpol had left no doubt of their authority. Somehow, they represent how the smart, artistic post-graduates living in the city want to come across, and their tensely dramatic rock songs have always been in sync with their collectively pounding pulse. Listening to Interpol brings with it a rush, like stepping out into a biting, blustery winter wind from somewhere safe and warm. —Charles Steinberg