...a deadpan down-to-business performance ethic...
Perhaps it’s the US release of ’24 Hour Party People’ or the arrival of that four CD New Order box set. Whatever the reason, New York’s currently fiending for all things Manc. On one side, there’s LCD Soundsystem melding ravey electro with mumbly Mark E. Smith-inspired rants and The Rapture mining A Certain Ratio’s jittery punker funk. Then there’s this evening’s headliners: the black-clad, mild-mannered Interpol, channeling The Smiths and Ian Curtis almost 20 years after the fact. Not since the Beckhams chose the name of their firstborn have Manchester and New York been so closely aligned.
In theory, then, Interpol are in the right place to pick up where their influences left off, spicing up their to post-punk/new wave cool with well-tended haircuts and second-hand Armani suits. And don’t think for a minute that fashion isn’t a top priority: this is band that literally came together on account of guitarist Daniel Kessler’s admiration for bassist Carlos D’s DM boots.
Detroit couldn’t care less about the cut of Interpol‘s cloth. As befits a town that gave birth to rock’s foremost hunter-gatherer, Ted Nugent, this audience is far more intent on being blown away by the next round of NYC-based saviors of music than it is to stand around admiring the band’s shoes or getting the number of their tailors. Still, if anything has plagued Detroit over the past year it’s that the city has been inundated with so many similarly minded bands that its garage-beleagured citizens are left thirsting for something different. Interpol are just that quencher – in the right place at the right time and dressed to kill any stray non-believers.
Adding touring keyboardist Eric Altesleben to the lineup, they take to the dimly lit stage with scant warning, tearing into their set in a serious-minded manner that belies their pretty boy fashion plate reputation. In fact, by the time Kessler plucks the second note of ‘Untitled’ he’s got tonight’s swarm of sweaty rock enthusiasts completely under his immaculately-trousered spell. They only get more fervent as his guitar pierces through the dense wall of cigarette smoke on ‘Roland’ and ‘Say Hello to Angels’. For the most part, though, Banks and company rarely reciprocate their fans’ obsessive devotion. Instead they eschew any familiar concert graces in favour of a deadpan down-to-business performance ethic. The heroic exception is Carlos D – as the crowd thickens to near-illegal proportions and the heat becomes unbearable, the band remain stoical, hardly breaking a sweat, but their bassist pouts and poses like he’s just reached some kind of self-pleasuring onstage nirvana.
But while it may seem simple to write off these aesthetes as highly stylized rock stars, this is hardly simple music. Traces of shoegazer heroes My Bloody Valentine permeate ‘Hands Away’, engulfing the crowd while drummer Sam Fogarino keeps an unyielding beat riding beneath. A darkly impassioned ‘Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down’ sees singer Paul Banks pull off his gothy vocalising without sounding like a vampire-obsessed dullard, to the crowd’s great delight.
Inevitably, Interpol‘s limited songbook (we’re only one album in, remember) forces the evening to wind down but as they nudge the end of ‘Obstacle 1’ with Banks echoing “I’ll never see this place again”, the crowd hangs on his every word, praying that he doesn’t mean it.