There aren’t many bands that will induce and entire, packed concert audience to stride through the ice and sleet from all across the city, and leave barely a space to be found. Interpol, though, pull it off three nights in a row. Two thirds even come early enough to see ‘one to watch’ support act Surfer Blood, who swear at their families and hype their escape from parental control. They do make them young these days, though to be fair they have the music to back it up, especially in the case of punchy, hook-ridden single ‘Swim’. While Surfer Blood aren’t yet world beaters, it’s hard to argue with their potential.
When Interpol do emerge, they do so into a theatre so drenched in smoke that they’re almost impossible to make out. Opening with ‘Success’, a rare effort from their self-titled new album, the first song is a notable calm before the storm, with ‘C’Mere’ kicking things into a higher gear that the gig never steps out of. Live, Interpol’s intrinsic tension comes to the fore. Many of the tracks are soaring, pulsing affairs that seem to end abruptly, making the most of sublime vocals from frontman Paul Banks. The feeling of in-built, pent up energy rings through every chord, ebbing and flowing, highlighting a muscular tension that never seems to quite disperse. In amongst it all there’s a bitterness, a tinge of melodrama that fades in and out of the listener’s consciousness.
Tonight is an exciting blend of the big hits, each greeted by a roar of approval from a crowd fully immersed in proceedings. ‘NYC’, ‘Evil’, ‘Narc’ and ‘Lights’ might follow similar musical formulas, but each has its own playful twist on a theme, and each reverts back to a darker time, bringing the audience on a ride of emotion and exiting the other side with the narrowest tinges of ecstasy. There can scarcely be a tighter band in rock.
The stage set up is equally sublime: a set of pipes artily arranged across a back wall (used to disperse light in interesting patterns throughout the set) is assisted by ancient-looking aluminium light stands, which shoot powerful spotlights across the stage. By the time we get to the encore – made up of a beautifully merged trio in ‘The Lighthouse’, ‘Mammoth’ and ‘Slow Hands’, the extended guitar solos and raucous buzz showered forth from the crowd has taken us within seconds of the venue’s 11pm curfew. Interpol – the most cultish of popular band – might wear their influences on their sleeves, but they produce a live show so tight and enticing that it’s impossible not to take pleasure. Despite the melancholy, outside the Olympia tonight it’s all smiles, and given the fortnight the country’s had, there’s not much more we can ask.
Photos: Kieran Frost.