Interpol @ Birmingham Academy, 26th November 2010


It’s deeply bitter outside tonight and after this year’s glorious day of British summer, winters just beginning to bite. And bite hard too. Can Interpol, the epitome of New York cool. Revivalists of melancholic post-punk create enough of an atmosphere to tempt me to remove my matching ensemble of gloves, scarf and bobble hat (thanks mum, but next year can I just have vouchers please?)?

From my perfect vantage point (which I’ll refer to as the best seat in the house) I can see that the gig must be sold out. Every spare inch of dance floor filled, bottoms gracing almost every seat and every leaning post leant on. It’s surprising really given the time of year, the state of the economy (yawn…) and £25 ticket price!

Walking on stage through a thick layer of dry-ice fog Interpol kick the evening off with ‘Success’. Paul Bank’s voice sounds bang on form. I can’t make out the lyrics but Bank’s deep baritone sounds oh so perfect. Conveying everything you’d expect from an Interpol vocal. Bank’s voice aside the sound quality was pretty poor. Way, way too much bass. Every bass line, every beat of the kick drum just resembled amplified farting. Please god don’t let it all be like this!


‘Say Hello To The Angels’ fortunately sounding much better; I could actually hear everything now. Although not the Mike Oldfieldesque Tubular Bells. It looks as though they’re just a part of the backdrop and aren’t actually instruments! What strikes me most is how upbeat the songs sound live. An old flame used to describe Interpol as “slit yer wrist music” As I sit here now I can’t recall any moment when I felt like committing hara-kiri. Not on this particular evening anyway.

‘Barricade’ introduced as being “off the new record” gently winds up with Sam Fogarino busting out a breaking drum beat allowing the song to build with deeper layers of bass lines and eventually the signature echo and heavy reverb guitar riffs. The tinkling of the ivories at the beginning of ‘Rest My Chemistry’ is as good an introduction as any to the song. Ironically it’s ‘Slow Hands’ that provides the first real crowd dancing, hands in the air moment. I’d never really appreciated just how fast the song actually is. It’s an odd marriage of music but one that works so well. The speed and pace of the rhythm matches perfectly with Bank’s slow deliberate vocal. I’m sure the drunken prick sat next to me fully appreciated ‘Slow Hands’ too. Jumping up thrusting both pint glass filled hands into the air and spilling most of the contents of one into my lap. Nice one, your loss not mine and I’m sure my washing machine is going to enjoy your £4 pint much more than you’d remember anyway!


Sorry, got momentarily side tracked there… Visually they’re all looking sharp, suited and booted with a pinched ankle here and there. It’s plain to see why they’re often regarded as being at the forefront of NYC’s underground cool. The general ambience created by the lighting suits the style of music exactly. Absolutely awful if you’re a shooter trying to grab the ‘money shot’. But the no-nonsense lighting, not overly flashy or bright leaves the silhouetted band appearing ever so slightly mystical. For a big name act it’s good to see that there’s not really anything to detract from the reason most are here, to hear Interpol play live. Even their on stage presence is very minimalist. Aside from the energy put into the music the only dance moves going down belong to Daniel Kessler featuring the occasional carpet shuffle moment or moonwalk. The more they play the more I found myself getting lost and enveloped in the groove. It’s definitely not music you mosh to. You might nod your head occasionally but mostly you sway in a style not too dissimilar to being an extra from an old soft mint commercial.


There were a number of things related to the set I found surprising. Up until the encore break there had been a good even mixture of songs taken from three of the four studio albums. But where was Evil? Where was Mammoth? Where was ‘Heinrich Maneuver’? The only track played off of ‘Our Love To Admire’ was ‘Rest My Chemistry’. Maybe the encore would quench the desire to hear live some of Interpol’s most popular songs? Erm no, well not really anyway. Starting off with ‘Untitled’; the opening track from ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’. Followed by ‘The New’ taken from the same album. ‘The New’ sounded epic, a rich deep multi layered song that would lend itself so easily to an emotional film music score. Photographer Steve predicted Interpol would finish with the ‘Heinrich Maneuver’ and right he was too. Even so when Interpol left the stage a second time there did seem to be some confusion hanging in the air as to whether the gig really had finished… Some of the favorites were still to be played but by the time the lights eventually came on any hope of another encore were well and truly dashed.

Interpol was outstanding tonight. It is in no way harsh criticism in saying the gig was ‘No Frills’. The lighting wasn’t bad, the crowd interaction was minimal, and any on stage antics were few and far between. But sometimes that’s how a gig should be. A event were you can walk in close your eyes, listen intently feeling music seep into every pore knowing your eyes couldn’t possibly bring an extra dynamic to the way you’re currently feeling.


Set list

Say Hello To The Angels
Rest My Chemistry
Slow Hands
Safe Without
Length Of Love
Summer Well
Take You On A Cruise
Memory Serves
Not Even Jail


The New
The Heinrich Maneuver

Review  – Lee Hathaway
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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