Interpol, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Monday 28 March 2011
In the baroque surroundings of a compact venue, a crowd is gathering in excitement. The front row is within touching distance of the stage, so when Paul Banks and Interpol emerge it feels as if they're walking into your front room. The immediate punch of opener "Success" is throbbing and powerful, its echoing riff and haunting refrain fitting the gothic location perfectly.
A glance around the crowd reveals the huge number of Interpol fanatics in attendance – there is hardly a foot not tapping in time, hardly a mouth not singing along. Yet despite this, it's difficult to discern exactly what the show is trying to achieve. Interpol's insistent, persistent sound rests largely on the shoulders of Banks, his vibrato tenor making the ordinary feel important. The proximity of the stage enhances his magnetism, and even though the band remain largely static for much of the show, their engaging mystique seems to grow with each passing track.
However, the band's music is also prone to swift tempo changes and can move from a growl to a purr in seconds; on record this adds to their appeal, but in person it means that no one seems altogether certain of what they should be doing, and a few ill-advised mosh-pit attempts seem doomed from the start.
The energy lifts during the poppier strains of "Barricade", "The Heinrich Maneuver" and the excellent "Evil", but such is Interpol's propensity for slow-burning intros – "Hands Away", and lengthy post-rock finishes – "NYC", that we're never far from deceleration, and the gig starts to feel accidentally uneven rather than intentionally diverse.
Many Interpol aficionados packed out Shepherd's Bush Empire tonight, and by the time the superb "Not Even Jail" closes the show, they are frenzied. However, it feels more like a display for the devout than a true attempt at mass conversion: while it's certainly a show that everyone enjoys, it's not a gig that all will treasure.
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