NYC’s own quintessential mood rockers Interpol came back to their homeland to play the tennis courts of Forest Hills Stadium in Queens and celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of their debut 2002 album, Turn On the Bright Lights. This is a band that helped spur the whole early 2000’s 80’s-retro new wave and post-punk mash-up craze on the music scene of the time, but they managed to break from the mold of their contemporaries like The Strokes, The Killers, Phoenix, and Franz Ferdinand by embracing the darker and less pop-driven sounds of the 80’s. Instead, they exemplified the dark dualism that was the strange gothy edge of alternative pop in that forgone decade, like mixing in the grooves of New Order while also embracing the darker demons of their predecessor band Joy Division. They uncovered that secret mixture that allowed bands like the Cure, The Smiths, and Depeche Mode to be so poppy and upbeat, and yet, still be so damned depressing. They stumbled upon a potent ancient spell of rock with their first album that few bands have ever managed to conjure, and legions of fans grew massive from that stunning introduction.
On this night you did hear a lot of comments like “this is making me feel like I’m in my 20’s again,” which can be both depressing and exhilarating as a music fan. Few like to admit it, but a lot of experiencing live concerts is about reliving moments and feelings that bands or artists made you feel previously. Still, the going on tour and playing their most popular album in its entirety phenomenon of the last decade or so has become such a lucrative venture in nostalgia tourism that I’m sure there are few bands that can resist reveling in their glory days themselves alongside their devotees.
The show opened with the largely instrumental proggy math rock trio Battles, who also hail from the Big Apple. The band is a super group of sorts, with guitarist and keyboardist Ian Williams from pioneering math rock bands like Don Caballero and Storm & Stress, guitarist/ bassist Dave Konopka formerly of Lynx, and, of course, drummer John Stanier from the hard rock 90’s band Helmet. Stanier can’t help but literally stand out with his trademark high cymbal that he actually jumps up out of his stool to crash in between his machine gun rimshot drumming assaults. They played a few songs off all three of their previous albums, which is a lot more than you’d think, as their songs are often long and expansive journeys that can swiftly turn from metal onslaughts, to ambient trip-outs, to electronic dancefests, to precise rhythm experiments in a heartbeat.
Many people were very excited to catch Deerhunter as another opener this night, which makes sense, as they also emerged into the scene in the early 00’s. This band is hard to peg down with genre-centric labels, as they often drift between loud and raw garage jammers, psychedelic noise-makers, and shoegazey ruffians. Head madman Bradford Cox was definitely in sublime wacky form this night, as he wished John Coltrane a happy birthday, dedicated “Take Care” to Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer actress Sheryl Lee, talked at length about the beautiful moon, and was basically at his quintessential silliest, playing up his role of the supreme jester of modern rock. I just about melted into a puddle when they played “Desire Lines,” and who can deny that “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” is a clear modern rock epic classic.
Interpol came out to a stage bathed in the contrasting reds and blacks that called up recollections of the Turn On the Bright Lights cover, all dressed in the finest dapper designer black suits, and from that point on, you were carried on a glorious nostalgic journey. Frontman Paul Banks’ deep baritone made you shutter from the insides, but he has never been the chatty or animated type onstage. However, you can always count on guitarist Daniel Kessler to keep the performance lively and enthusiastic, and Sam Fogarino remains one of the greatest drummers of modern music. Of course, original bassist Carlos D was not in attendance, but that would have been awkward, as they apparently don’t even speak to each other anymore. Nonetheless, TOTBL still speaks to me deeply after all this time, especially as a long-time New Yorker, with its icy shivering walls of sound, the presentiment sense of alienation in a sea of people, and that distinctly funky and never-ceasing attitude that screams “this is the city that never sleeps!”
After the end-to-end album they tagged on the track “Specialist,” which was an outtake that made it onto one of their singles. Then, they came back quickly from a brief break as they were fighting time to fit in some more songs before the super-early 10PM curfew of this suburban outdoor venue. They played “Not Even Jail” and “Slow Hands” from their second album Antics, and a couple from their last pair of albums “Lights” and finishing with “All the Rage Back Home.” It was a shame to be cut off so early, as they clearly had some more to play, but it was still a perfect night.
Article: Dean Keim