“We’ve got five records to play you guys,” frontman Paul Banks told the audience midway through Interpol’s polished closing set at INmusic Festival, the annual extravaganza held by the placid waters of Lake Jarun in Zagreb. “There’s a lot to catch up on – it’s been a long time.” The art-rock legends have overcome inter-band disputes and the departure of a member (the velveteen dandy bass player Carlos Dengler) to make a much-anticipated comeback record – the upcoming ‘Marauder’ – and remind sold-out crowds what made us love them in the first place: moody, atmospheric soundscapes, gleefully melodramatic lyrics and barbed wire guitar riffs.
The show was stuffed with fan favourites, the lopsided melody of ‘The New’ (which Banks introduced with the word, “We’re gonna take you back to the old days with this one”) rubbing shoulders with the slinky bassline of ‘Not Even Jail’. Yet it was the lithe 2004 single ‘Slow Hands’ that drew the greatest roar from the audience as floodlights form the stage illuminated their faces. Percussionist Sam Fogarino battered his drum kit with machine-like precision, his arms like pistons through the breakneck rhythms of the chorus. Interpol’s music has always been preoccupied with emotional turmoil, yet the rest of the band were almost statuesque as they soundtracked one devastating couplet after another, creating an eerie juxtaposition.
Seattle grunge-metallers Alice In Chains were anything but statuesque as they threw themselves around the Main Stage earlier in the evening. They rolled out endless powerhouse riffs, including pummelling ‘The One You Know’, taken from the upcoming ‘Rainier In Fog’, their third album with vocalist William DuVall, who’s fronted the band since 2006 (founding member Layne Staley tragically died from a drug overdose in 2002). Fans have taken well to DuVall, who peacocked through a set intended to showcase the band’s enormous influence over American rock music since the early ‘90s. Lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell acknowledged the warmth felt toward to the group when he assured the audience: “There’s only ever been six members of this band, and there’ll only ever be six members of this band.”
The heaviosity continued over the Other World Stage, as Portugal. The Man delivered a set that massively beefed up their cheery alt-pop sound – ‘Number One’ sounded more like a classic rock track than its usual MGMT-inspired self – while a screen behind the band relayed trippy visuals adorned with slogans such as, ‘REAL BANDS DON’T NEED SINGERS’. At one point, a crudely rendered CGI woman with red spikes for hair appreciatively watched the performance. The Alaskan group used ‘Unchained Melody’ as their entrance music, a hint at their playful attitude and determination to confound. The small Hidden Stage, fertile territory for new musical discoveries, played host to Belarusian post-punk duo Super Besse, whose taut guitar-and-drum-machine bangers inspired the crowd down the front to in unison. The band played their instruments with exaggeratedly robotic motions as they contrasted grinding, claustrophobic bass and percussion with echoing, spacious guitar refrains.
For all this riffage and experimentation, though, the final day at INmusic festival was character by the louche grace that Interpol brought to the Main Stage (their first ever performance in Croatia). After a sunny weekend, light rain speckled Lake Jarun as a disco ball above the band refracted light like broken glass. The inevitable encore closed with the eerie ‘Lights’, punctuated by the slow chime of Fogarino’s cowbell, while spotlights made patterns from the steady droplets. “What a great festival,” Banks remarked. “You guys are an amazing audience. We’re gonna come back real quick.” Paul, you’re not the only one.