With their black suits, iconic tunes, and signature disarming cool, NYC post-punk legends Interpol gave San Diego a night to remember last Friday.
Choice openers Sunflower Bean and The Kills took advantage of their seemingly boundless levels of indie cred, playing wonderful sets to the adoring mass, with Sunflower Bean’s tight, explosive psych-rock chemistry playing beautifully against the Kills’ blusier, more down-and dirty approach. With their enigmatic stage presence, two of the most dynamic frontwomen in music, Julia Cumming and Alison Mosshart ensured that this made for a killer twin bill to open the show, conveying a stylistically varied and yet cohesive sense of what I would call complete and total badassery. From the rail above the Colosseum-style seating, I watched both bands demolish their opening sets with razor-like precision.
Sunflower Bean gave us a taste of the hypnotic, classic-rock influenced sounds they’ve explored on their newest record Twentytwo in Blue, with their obsession-worthy guitar and vocal hooks on songs like “I Was a Fool” leaving everyone wanting more after a painfully terse opening set. The Kills, meanwhile, drew from all their different incarnations as a band, owning the stage like the seasoned pros they are, with airy and atmospheric transitions between songs that bookended their thrashy, stylized journeys straight through to the heart center of the blues. Their screaming rendition of “Doing it to Death,” in particular perfectly exemplified their raunchy brand of controlled musical chaos.
On to the main event.
As the lights went down on the amphitheater, I found my thoughts racing as I nervously awaited one of my favorite bands, Interpol, anxious as to what the band had been bringing to their performances on this album cycle. Clearly, whatever they would choose to air out would capitalize on a deep well of good faith and fan service. After 2017’s Turn on the Bright Lights XV anniversary shows provided a well-earned victory lap for the band, paying homage to the band’s seminal classic album and one of the most iconic records of the early 2000s, it was finally time to see what place the newly-minted Marauder would take in their already celebrated discography, and what deeper cuts we would get to pore over here in 2018. The lights dimmed and the band filed out one by one, arming themselves with their instruments as if to unite and conquer.
Opening with the gorgeous “Pioneer to the Falls,” a patient lament from 2007’s Our Love to Admire, the band immediately displayed exactly why they have stuck around for so long and been influential to so many people’s lives; with a unique energy and an elemental mix of visceral rock, gritty post-punk, and killer bravado known only to these tremendously important musicians. The crowd’s energy grew steadily from the song’s anticipatory opening to a full-on fever pitch as a waterfall-like stream of notes rang out from Daniel Kessler’s guitar. “I will pray that the soul can take three stowaways,” Paul Banks crooned, his voice creating a thick layer of atmosphere atop the already stunning arrangement. For however cryptic and idiosyncratic his lyrics can be, their sheer audacity and emotional quality creates a poetic vortex waiting to pull you into it; and all in attendance were transfixed from note one.
Soon after followed “If You Really Love Nothing,” the second single from Marauder and the band’s first offering from the new album, featuring a steady and rollicking groove from drummer Sam Fogarino. The song bounded along confidently, but showcased a vulnerable falsetto vocal from Banks that served as a wonderful foil to the instrumentation, bolstered by the band’s signature twin-guitar attack. It’s quintessential Interpol, and the band emerged from it almost without knowing what to say; eschewing ice-breaker commentary by launching into “Roland,” one of the most emotive and underrated cuts from Turn on the Bright Lights, a character study about a clandestine killer withdrawn from society. Transitionary moments like these between new material and time-tested classics proved to be both hard-hitting and thought-provoking as the night progressed; with the band opting to forego some of their biggest early hits (“Untitled,” “Obstacle 1,” “PDA,” “Say Hello to the Angels”) in favor of a more varied and, ultimately rewarding set of songs. The show hit a roll as the ever-sleek “Public Pervert” from Antics and the fiery “All the Rage Back Home” from 2014’s El Pintor stoked the flames of momentum. The emotional height of the set, predictably, came about with “NYC,” the band’s most revered and poignant ballad, often cited as an important portrait of America’s emotional landscape post-9/11. In these fraught and troubled times, even sixteen years on, the message of empathy and compassion the song put forth proved totally relevant.
Late-set highlights included timeless banger “Slow Hands,” “Lights” from the band’s self-titled record, and the band’s latest post-apocalyptic mood piece, “Number 10”, from Marauder. Overall, throughout the set, the band showcased a sense of performative and compositional balance; which meant so much coming from a band that’s always been a combination of four perfect parts, four different identities. From their picturesque studio recordings and larger-than-life thematic concepts to their embodiment of professionalism and class onstage, their focus has always been planted firmly in the now. Even with their irreplaceable and enigmatic bassist Carlos D long since departed, Interpol has been with me and many other like-minded fans for years as a vital outlet for powerful and conflicting emotions, with their music serving as both a mirror for abject sadness and a guided way through grief. With their monumental discography and always-urgent onstage chemistry, I reckon just about anyone with a taste for electric guitars and poignant lyricism can find something about Interpol that will undoubtedly speak to them.