Well, wasn’t this just about the biggest disappointment of the year?*
Interpol have returned after a several year hiatus with a mediocre fourth album and a new bass player. They performed at DAR Constitution Hall on Wednesday night to a 3/4 full house. Their performance was a lame mess of disjointed sonic elements that was either a symptom of hiatus rust or a band resting on its laurels. I fear it was a combination of both.
I don’t even know where to begin describing this one. Interpol used to be an amazing band and I saw them perform plenty in their prime. Ever since their junior album though, something has just not been clicking. I believe Carlos D felt that too and that is why their identifiable bass player quit to work on ‘other artistic projects’. His departure is not the reason for Interpol sucking these days though. The reason Interpol have devolved from a band that danced along the edge of passion and numbness brilliantly into a bloated, boring act seems to be disinterested members and a lack of general harmony among its musical parts.
The show on Wednesday was a loud mess. Each instrument felt like it was tugging at your ears like a horse until eventually your head got pulled apart by them. I hesitate to even call their set music. Sure they were playing their instruments and sticking to the structure of their songs (including many of their classics) but their was little actual harmony to be heard at all. Indie music hero Dave Pajo filled in admirably on bass and seemed to be the person trying hardest on stage to deliver a good performance. After all, he has Carlos D’s shoes to fill. No blame for Wednesday’s let-down falls on his shoulders.
To listen to his performance you would think that the Sam Fogarino was filling in for a departed member as well. His drums were ridiculously overblown. There were all sorts of cheesy, arena-rock fills and clap-along, goading, thump-thump-thumps all night long. At one point I asked myself if I was at an Interpol concert or watching Metallica? This lame attempt to expand Interpol’s percussive sound just came across as a cheesy, desperate ploy to engage the audience.
Early in the set the audience spontaneously clapped along at some very weird moments. It did not match what little rhythm the band was mustering at the time. This happened a few times in the first half of the set. I came to think of their clapping as the audience attempting CPR on this limp, unconscious band in a “don’t you fucking die on me!” attempt to bring this boring show back to life. Once Interpol entered ‘epic’ mode in the set’s second half, most of the audience had become too unplugged to clap along to the drummer’s beat.
The keyboards were just fucking awful too. I’ve always felt that The Secret Machines were an overrated band and the addition of Brandon Curtis to Interpol on keys has done nothing to change that opinion. His keyboards were mixed way up front and had this goofy prog-rock meets bad New Wave tone to them that ruined the seriousness of several songs through out the night. I suppose this was Interpol’s attempt at adding atmosphere to the songs, but all it really did was drown their classics in deluge of weak synth. To my absolute horror and bafflement, as the set progressed the role of the keyboards increased! Looking at my notes I began to jot down thoughts about the odd keyboards on ‘Untitled’. I must have noted the keyboards’ lameness five more times before jotting down “Oh good, even MORE keyboards!” when they launched into the piano synth of ‘Try It On’. The drumming felt like an artificial attempt to soup up Interpol’s presence while the keys injected a horribly inappropriate prog sound into all of their early material.
Speaking of the prog-rock infection that ruined this show (and probably this band), what the hell was up with the transition between ‘Try It On’ and ‘Not Even Jail’? The entire show Interpol would play a song and then stop. Start the next song, play it, then stop on a dime. It was as if they were showing off their timing to prove to the world that, “See we still have solid timing even with a new bassist”. It got old fast and I was hoping that they would start working some transitions into the set. When they finally did between ‘Try It On’ and ‘Not Even Jail’ it was horrible. The transition was a clunky attempt at a huge moment, once again couched in lame-ass keyboard tones, and it fell completely flat. Interpol played through it though, delivering an overblown rendition of ‘Not Even Jail’. They were trying so hard on this one and failing so miserably, that as I sat in my seat listening**, I began to dread that this was their big set finish. A few minutes later I realized it was, as they thanked the audience and left the stage.
What followed was a long, break that indicated that the band thought they had done a really great job or that they were so full of themselves that the crowd would wait for them as long as they pleased. A lot of people were streaming to the exits by the time Interpol finally returned to the stage to play a mind-numbingly boring and sloppy rendition of ‘The Lighthouse’. It was like Interpol thought they had delivered this magical evening or something and were giving us this great, atmospheric, emotional gift of a performance. In reality, I wish they had just taken the stage and ripped through ‘Slow Hands’ to get the show over with.
I guess it is pretty obvious that I hated this show. It was sad watching this once great band merely go through the motions. It was like watching a once strong and intelligent man become frail and feeble minded with age. Interpol still know the words to their songs but they do not seem to care about them at all anymore. There was no soul or passion; just empty artifice and disjointed sound.
To be fair, Interpol delivered a good performance on one song. Their new song ‘Lights’ sounded fantastic and it was the one time that the band seemed engaged in what they were performing. Did I really just type that? “A good performance on one song.”
Completely, utterly, unacceptable. Total disappointment. Epic fail.
* For now this Interpol concert is tied with this show for biggest disappointment of 2010.
** Trust me, by this part of the show more than half of the audience were seated and a third had left.