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Live Review: Interpol @ Brixton Academy, 27/03/14

You know when you’re back in your hometown and you run into someone you’ve not seen for years? The hot guy at school, or the popular girl from sixth form? And they’re all married, with kids and have a normal job and looking distinctly less hot, but have a far-off twinkle of nostalgia in their eyes? Seeing Interpol last night in Brixton was just like that.

Back in 2002, I moved to London and discovered indie music: the Libertines, the Strokes, all those other bands with ‘the’ in their names. They soundtracked my hazy evenings in Camden, riotous house parties in improbable parts of London, trips home from late-night clubs, and bus rides of discovery. Interpol were different though – their spiky, angular brand of guitar music was angsty but also intelligent. They were the ice-cool guys sat in the corner wearing all black shirts and pointy leather boots. The guys reading art monographs while everyone else was taking crack and worrying about who was on the cover of the NME.

I have a lot of nostalgia for those days, and that nostalgia was awakened by Interpol last night. Two chords into the opening song (‘Angels’), the crowd went wild, moshing like it was 2002 all over again (despite their trainers being significantly more expensive and their knees being significantly older). Thing is, the band are older too. Losing iconic and long-serving bassist Carlos D in 2010 (just before they went on that mysterious musical term ‘hiatus’) means that they’re not the tight proposition that they once were. New bassist Brad and original drummer Sam were consistently ½ a bar out from each other, and worse – the drums overpowered the guitars sonically. I don’t know if this is the preferred setup for big venue bands now, but Interpol are not a percussion-driven band: if you can’t hear the guitars properly, what’s the point? Paul & Dan’s vocals were without their trademark urgency or passion in their delivery, and while their onstage interaction was as ever at a minimum, this lack of conviction was distracting and a little sad to see, especially for band who have delivered some of the tightest live performances I’ve ever seen.

It all came to a head three songs from the end, when the tempos became so mixed up that they had to stop and start ‘Hands Away’ again. The band knew that this wasn’t a stellar performance, and while old classics had the floor moving, new tracks held an eerie silence as they failed to connect. It’s a classic story, perhaps, but Interpol should be head and shoulders above the rest – with an enraptured older crowd like this and a roster of super indie classics, I wanted to leave the gig feeling like indie music still has a place in the world, and my heart.

When they were good – in the barnstorming of ‘Slow Hands’ for example, and at the end of the encore with the simply beautiful ‘Obstacle 1’ – they were really, really good. But they lost their way mid-set, and even the most hardcore fans saw that. Thing is, Interpol definitely aren’t dead yet – they’re playing a string of European festival dates, and I reckon that this – effectively – warm-up gig was just that, a warm-up. I’m not ready for the indie of my youth to be over, and judging by the gathered crowds, neither is their audience. Are Interpol? Only time and more performances will tell.

- Seb Law

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