April 3, 2005

Interpol brings their Antics to the Aragon Ballroom

As the bright lights lowered at the Aragon Ballroom and Q and not U left the stage on Friday, the large crowd welcomed Interpol. Their set affirmed their status as a melancholy group of guys concerned with a deep, resonating alternative sound rather than the comments of critics.

The four-man group—excluding the keyboardist, who is touring with music written and recorded by bassist Carlos D.—slowly walked out, grabbed their instruments, and struck the opening riff of "Next Exit," the first song off of their sophomore and most recent album, Antics, Guitarist Daniel Kessler played through a dense fog of perfectly tuned distortion before Paul Bank's deep, tortured voice broke in to tell the audience, "We're not going to the town, we're going to the city." True to the lyrics, the sound and stage presence of Interpol was very metropolitan. As the song and the set progressed, the band stayed true to their sound—producing a fullness that was only equaled by the angst-filled, yet somehow somber, tone of the music and lyrics.

This intro set the mood for a night that included a balance of songs from Antics and from Interpol's debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights. Critics and fans alike have commented on the difference between the two albums. The hype that formed after Interpol stormed onto the New York City scene with Turn on the Bright Lights seemed to sway after Antics was released in 2004. Many were left to wonder whether the band they fell in love with, the band with a perfectly crafted album that flowed along on an undercurrent of sedate emotional bursts, had changed. Some even worried that this band would go the way of another New York band of "hipsters" whose garage sound and trendy fashion sense propelled their first album to success before their second failed upon release (think back to high school).

Just as Banks only came out of his personal sedation to thank the audience after each song, the members of Interpol were apparently too concerned with the music to make a change because of the critics. Their set included songs from both albums. Such juxtaposition accentuates the rift between opinions that a strong and growing fan base bridges (all songs were played to screaming fans). A song like "Evil," which has a video that is currently online as well as on music television networks, even preceded older songs, such as "NYC."

Wearing suits as usual, Interpol filled the large Aragon Ballroom with layer upon layer of sound. Banks continually looped riffs through the sound system to add more to each song. This carried the band through the show. The fullness of their music allowed Interpol to play in a very sedate fashion. Little movement onstage and even less communication with the audience usually results in a boring or arrogant show, but for Interpol, it worked.

Q and not U, the opening act, attempted to excite the audience with their self-proclaimed "dance music." The three-man group, however, was not able to fill the room with sound or push their agenda on the audience. At one point, the talkative guitarist/bassist/frontman Christopher Richards went off on a Bush-bashing rant that fell upon deaf ears. Many of their songs lacked vitality due to the small size of the band. These problems in Q and not U's set caused the audience to be apathetic towards the band. Even their unique instrument choices did not rile the crowd. Their short opening set was little more than a quirky diversion before Interpol took the stage.

As Interpol finished a single encore after their set, Banks and Kessler went to the back of the stage and began producing a resonating curtain of distortion from their amplifiers. This, rather than something extravagant, ended the show and was rewarded with applause. In this act they broke down any critique to the fractured, turbulent soul of their music.