New York City re-emerged as the epicentre of rock music at the turn of the 21st century, thanks in no small part to a key mix of bands ushering in a new era and a new sound that borrowed from garage rock, post-punk and cult indie classics. Here’s the thing, though: Most of those bands aren’t around anymore. They either splintered off into new projects or imploded entirely. We’re so far removed from it that it’s now centred as a point of millennial nostalgia. By no right should a band like Interpol still be able to play a room as prestigious as the Sydney Opera House concert hall, let alone fill every last seat within it.
On the first Saturday night of 2019, however, this is exactly the position we find ourselves in. Interpol are survivors – through fads, trends, hype machines and career derailments surrounding them, the band have barely had a scuff on their immaculate suits. They’re still making new music – a lion’s share of the set tonight stems from last year’s Marauder – and they’re still just as invested in putting on a large-scale live show as they were at their commercial and critical peak some 15 years and change prior.
Just watch the way that Daniel Kessler moves with his guitar – he’s entrenched in the rhythm of every song, mesmerised by the sequence of notes in a way that’s simultaneously absorbed and a total projection to his captive audience. Up the back, Sam Fogarino has not – to pardon a pun – lost a beat. His dedication to airtight drumming and military precision is what accentuates key moments like “Say Hello to the Angels” or recent single “The Rover,” and the acoustics of the concert hall make him sound even more Goliathan.
If the songs themselves weren’t enough, the performance is enhanced and accentuated by a stunning light show. With a mirrorball looming over them, many songs are carved out of shapes in the shadow and inextricably tied to its aesthetics. “NYC,” which is already one of the more stunning moments of the Interpol discography,” is taken to the next level with shifting strobe lights that match up to its rhythm. Later, the intensity of “All the Rage Back Home” from 2014’s El Pintor is kicked up a notch thanks to stark, flashing lights throughout its verses.
As the instantly-recognisable riff from 2004’s “Slow Hands” bursts from the speakers, so too does the audience from its seats. You could never contain a room with this energy, least of all when one of the band’s signature songs is playing. As the encore offers up “Evil” and “Obstacle 1,” the masses have converted into a makeshift choir. The song remains the same, as they say – and it’s a testament to Interpol that they’re still around, live and in the flesh, to sing it to us.
Review – David James Young
Photo – Daniel Boud