The demand for bands playing classic albums in full continues undiminished, so it was inevitable that Interpol would eventually follow (immaculately tailored) suit. The NYC gloom-mongers are on a fifteenth anniversary tour of their debut record, ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, which helped reshape early-2000s indie. For the lasting impact of it, you need only take a cursory glance at the rest of Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival line-up on Thursday – it was an early monochrome influence on Editors, who perform on the main stage later tonight, and headliners the xx.
They arrive amid a nostalgia boom for the era, kindled by Lizzy Goodman’s oral history, Meet Me In The Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 – which presents the various characters’ internecine relationships as akin to an indie Game of Thrones. Swathed in red lights, dapper frontman Paul Banks still glowers intensely, looking as if he’s just been told the band’s dry-cleaning bill for the tour. A question-mark looms over whether playing ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ top-to-toe in full – a track order which doesn’t lend itself to the peaks and troughs a live set requires – will work at a festival, and there would seem to be an initial attempt at combating this by opening with two sops from second album ‘Antics’: ‘Not Even Jail’ and ‘Evil’.
But in truth, Interpol don’t need to worry about converting fair-weather fans tonight: the packed tent is brimming with devotional 30-somethings who would probably slay an Interpol round on BBC quiz Pointless and kids in Joy Division T-shirts (which, back in 2002 might have been considered trolling) poised for a Proustian rush of angular guitars, shoe-gaze emotion, and staccato basslines – alas, for full bucket list-tick effect, not provided by founding member bassist Carlos Dengler who exited in 2010.
Sleeves rolled up, Interpol get down to business proper with the cavernous and grandiose ‘Untitled’ and ‘Obstacle 1’, with a lean, taut sense of purpose. The elegiac ‘NYC’ gives way to the tension-and-release of ‘PDA’ which sees a sea of Belgians sing the lyrics ‘We have two hundred couches where you can sleep tonight’ like the most dolorous Ikea commercial of all time. It helps that Banks’ brooding baritone could probably infuse any gobbledygook with an open-hearted sincerity. After the propulsive ‘Roland’ (which, along with ‘Obstacle 2’, is a lesser-played live track from the time) erupts in a flurry of strobes and lethargic closer ‘Leif Erikson’ unfurls in moody majesty, Banks signs off to the fawning throng with: “It was an honour to be here and play this record for you”. And, for once, even he allows himself a smile.