Interpol at Kool Haus, Toronto – Concert review

August 11, 2010

The Gig: Interpol
Where: Kool Haus, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: 10 August 2010
In One Word: Evocative

It’s uncommon these days that I attend a concert as media without a camera strung around my neck, but tonight at the Kool Haus I was happy to watch the show with just a beer in my hand and a notepad in my back pocket. Having been playing in an amateur league football match just before this gig, I figured I’d done enough shooting for one evening, having scored a hat-trick in our 6-0 win – huzzah! A bit of an odd one though to be turning up at a concert already drenched in sweat – thankfully the temperature inside the Kool Haus wasn’t too bad.Interpol - promo photo by Pieter van Hattem

Interpol are not the most photogenic of bands in any case. Their stage presence is fairly anonymous – the band are there, you can see them and throw a wave to them, but that’s about it. The members of Interpol do very little in terms of movement on stage and they always seem distant. Sure, they stand silhouetted and try to look moody and cool, but The Big Pink or B.R.M.C. they are not – they just don’t have an impacting stage presence. Things were a little different when Interpol had their original line-up: Carlos D. on bass did have presence, looking affected and fucked-up in a way that provided a complimentary visual to go along with Interpol’s music.  Carlos D. was the archetype of the moody bassist. His replacement David Pajo had none of that presence tonight at the Kool Haus, and together with Brandon Curtis, was just there to make up the numbers.

Interpol’s original line-up was where it was at: or I should say, the line-up responsible for their 2002 debut album Turn on the Bright Lights. That album was one of the best of the last decade, and tonight at the Kool Haus three-quarters of the 2002-era Interpol played through a set laced with songs taken from their classic debut. From the second song onwards, “Say Hello To The Angels”, it was always their oldest material that stood-out. The rises and falls in the music, punctuated by those pensive guitar hooks delivered by Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler sounded as haunting and striking as ever. And Paul Banks has that rather dreary, distinct vocal style to match. With a stand-in bass player and keyboardist completing the line-up, this gig became one where I stood reminiscing about memories associated with songs from Interpol’s debut record.

“Turn on the Bright Lights is a deceptively deep record, and to fully appreciate it you first need to find yourself in a dark place.”

Turn on the Bright Lights was a record that quite literally had me floored. Of all the sharply dressed New York bands that invaded the consciousnesses of British music fans in the early 2000’s, Interpol offered up something a bit different. They enjoyed the same kind of front-page hype on the NME that the Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s enjoyed, but Interpol’s music was harder for me to grasp – it was more challenging, and deeper. I was dismissive of Interpol at first, finding Turn on the Bright Lights to be too dark and depressing to enjoy, which is quite a statement to make for me considering I grew up in one of the most dour and isolated parts of Grey Britain. Interpol have dark undertones that we British usually clamour for – that’s why Joy Division, the Fall, the Smiths and or any post-punk band worth it’s salt became so loved. But to me Interpol were an acquired taste, and it took a [then] heart-wrenching break-up from my first proper girlfriend to lead me to switch Is This It from my stereo to replace it with Turn on the Bright Lights. As I wallowed in pity on the floor of my dank bedsit room in a rundown town in north England (a place I’d moved to for university), suddenly the music of Interpol began to make sense. Interpol’s music gave me a soundtrack to the emotions I was feeling, and no other new music at that time could reach me in the same way. Turn on the Bright Lights is a deceptively deep record, and to fully appreciate it you first need to find yourself in a dark place.

At the Kool Haus I was sure certain that I was not the only one who was having a rather self-immersed concert experience. For about every second song, Interpol played a song from that inspired first album, and these were always the songs that got the big reactions. I tuned out to the rest, with new songs like “Barricade” doing nothing for me. But for the old songs it was a real pleasure to find myself reminiscing about all the memories I associate with each of the songs from Bright Lights.

“Obstacle 1” was a big song, for sure, and one of the closest to the heart of any Interpol fan, while elsewhere “Hands Away” and “Stella” were other picks, while “Evil” from their second album Antics was the only non Bright Lights song that I found any interest in.

For me though, as I stood in my self-immersed and reminiscent concert trance, the moment of the evening came with “NYC” during Interpol’s three song encore. The lyrics of: “I’m sick of spending these lonely nights, Training myself not to care… I know you’ve supported me for a long time, Somehow I’m not impressed”, are so cavernously affecting. They are the kind of lyrical gush that hopeless romantics like myself might send on a card to Post-Secret – or use as sensitive a Tweet, at least. And despite all the sadness of that song, the backing chorus of “(Got to be some more change in my life)” can be used as a motivator – I found myself going into a big Interpol relapse last year, but even us sensitive Interpol-liking types can dust ourselves off after getting knocked down and rise up again. Music can inspire, help us understand or at the very least help take the edge off of life’s knocks – and for that reason, it is to bands like Interpol that we can say with great sincerity: Thank you for the music.

© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice

Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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One Response to Interpol at Kool Haus, Toronto – Concert review

  1. Michelle Grimaldi on August 18, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Dear Brian,
    I have to say, having been a fan, of this band’s since their completion of “Bright Lights”…I enjoyed your article quite a bit.
    I was at that show at the Koolhaus on the 10th and felt similar reminiscent-like vibes as yourself.
    I must say though, that I got to know this band in ny when they first came out, or were first coming out…so perhaps some say that my opinion is a little biased however I disagree. I just knew these guys (well Paul) through someone I was dating and started to work for them…but I was so like you. I heard them and thought “wow, that’s a little dark for me” having been with the strokes for a while (my guy was working for them at the time too)…it certainly was a change. Then I realized that change was definitely welcomed.
    I truly loved Antics and really dug Our Love to Admire, especially Pace is The Trick…but I think this latest, is once again, an acquired taste….Lights is a big one…give it a chance…listen to it thoroughly laying back in your family room or wherever your music is, smoke one, dube other otherwise and listen. I feel you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Carlos did co-write and play on it before leaving…

    Thanks for the article….I enjoyed it.


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