Interpol Photo by Francesca Nottola

Photo by Francesca Nottola


Those who are familiar with Manchester venues already know about the immense pleasure provided by experiencing a gig in the magnificent Albert Hall setting. For those who aren’t, the building is a former 20th century Methodist chapel with a strong gothic soul which has been recently renovated and turned into one of the best music venues in Manchester.

Interpol are preceded by the interesting Los Angeles band Health, who start their set more or less on time. The metallic avalanche suddenly generated by drummer JB Miller mercilessly startles the 75-year-old crazy cat lady living inside me. I didn’t expect that. He breaks a cymbal after 5 seconds of being on stage. My gig friend and I agree that he is undoubtedly the centre of the performance, with his impressively powerful style. Miller is surrounded by frontman and guitarist Jake Duzsik, guitarist and keyboard player Jupiter Keyes and bassist John Famiglietti. The latter must have a deep nostalgic love for hair swirling and headbanging, as he keeps doing both for the whole performance, something that completely diverts the attention from whatever he is playing and which is, frankly, after a while, a bit boring, especially in 2015. But since the hair is everything in Famiglietti’s performance, then we have to give him credit and admit that his hair is just as awesome as Nuno Bettencourt’s (Extreme). He’d make an amazing shampoo/conditioner advert. He surely has no stiff neck problems either.

A single floor drum brutally hammered by guitarist Keyes gives a primordial taste to the first song, perhaps because in my head I visualise 2001: A Space Odyssey and the ape smashing all the T-bones he can lay his hands on. But the soundscape gradually evolves into an electronic and occasionally industrial atmosphere that makes me think of Nine Inch Nails and that, at the same time, links the presence of this band on the same stage as Interpol. The internet labels Health as ‘noise’, but – like any label – it is very restrictive when applied to this band, as they are interesting precisely because of the creative blending of electric and disquieting electronic sounds.

Not being a huge fan of overdone performances, I’m not particularly fascinated by this dramatic metal-like mise-en-scène, and I feel that the energy wasted in swirling and banging could be more fruitfully invested in developing their undeniable creativity, abundantly displayed in tonight’s set. The appeal of this band also comes from the perfect contrast of this noisy atmosphere with Duzsik’s delicate voice. Health conclude their set after 7 or 8 songs at 20.45 and clear the stage.

Interpol  Photo by Francesca Nottola

Photo by Francesca Nottola

While we wait – for those like myself who enjoy procrastinating with this kind of infographics – I notice that Interpol’s stage positioning is as follows: drums and two keyboards at the back, bass on front left, guitar on the front right and singer/guitarist at the centre. A few microphones are also directed towards the audience. The proverbial church cold is gone by now, with thousands of humans warming up the space for Interpol, which arrive a bit late of schedule.

And here they are, magnificent in those perfect black suits. Gig mate can’t help but notice lead guitarist Daniel Kessler’s short trousers which reveal his ankles and schoolboy socks. Bass player Brad Truax (aka Reverend Green, who collaborated with Spiritualized, Animal Collective, Joan as Police Woman, Antony and the Johnsons and Oneida) opts for a classic leather jacket look and he bears an uncanny resemblance to Manuel Agnelli, frontman of Italian band Afterhours.

The setlist draws from all their albums, but primarily from the last release El Pintor, the first acclaimed Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics. The gig starts with ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ and continues with ‘Anywhere’ and ‘My Blue Supreme’, one of the jewels from the beautiful El Pintor. It is with ‘Evil’ that the audience really drops any inhibition and declares its love. The next song is a pleasantly noisy ‘The New’ that emphasizes the extraordinary drumming of Sam Fogarino and also the hypnotic rhythms of Daniel Kessler’s and Paul Banks’ guitars.

The quality of the show is enhanced by an inspired lighting of the stage, which is alternately coloured in red, green, blue and white. A projector decorates the background with geometric images that change with the sounds produced on stage, slow-motion sequences of surfers sliding in tunnels of waves from the video of ‘All The Rage Back Home’ and grainy live footage of the show itself, mainly foregrounds of Paul Banks singing.

And here comes the moment that any Interpol gig review reader dreads: the mention of Joy Division. I want to say mine too, although unsolicited. The entire 13-year-long debate about Interpol ‘ripping off’ Joy Division is one of the most futile and ridiculous that has ever filled the musical ether. To say that Interpol rip off Joy Division is like saying that Johnny Marr is a thief of rock’n’roll riffs or that White Stripes made no sense because Jack White’s guitar may remind us of the Stooges. Nonsense. On the other hand, to dismiss parallels with Joy Division as irrelevant when former bass player Carlos Dengler explicitly referenced Joy Division and New Order as some of his main influences, when current touring bassist Brad Truax contributed to interesting dub covers of Joy Division for a band called Jäh Division, and when in a live show you project black and white geometric images on a wall that are strongly reminiscent of the cover of Unknown Pleasures is a bit silly. In any case, I can’t understand why acknowledging the influence of Joy Division (among others) would in any way downplay the immense talent of Interpol, which is clearly apparent tonight.



In fact, I see more Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds than Ian Curtis and Joy Division on that stage. One can’t ignore the importance played by aesthetics in Interpol’s performances and albums. Everything – from the slick hair to the short trousers revealing the ankles, from the most beautiful Gibsons ever to the lighting, from the album covers to the psychedelic images projected on the wall, from the suits to the B/W videos – creates a consistent Interpol aesthetic palette that makes them so elegant, popular and impossibly NYC-cool, despite both Kessler and Banks being born in England.

The show continues with the splendid ‘My Desire’, with its irresistible piercing guitar riff, galloping drums and basslines, and Banks’ dramatic and sensual singing, followed by ‘Rest My Chemistry’. Daniel Kessler’s lemony riffs and passionate playing perfectly embroider the musical fabric woven by Fogarino’s tense drumming and Banks’ deep baritone voice. Kessler is unstoppable on stage, frantically jumping and contorting himself around his glamorous guitars, in contrast with Paul Banks’ and Brad Truax’s quieter stage presence. Next up is ‘Everything Is Wrong’, in which Brad Truax’s powerful melodic bass finally emerges, followed by a soul-stirring ‘Lights’. Banks thanks and gradually lets himself go.

A sublime performance by creative drummer Fogarino and Kessler marks ‘Breaker 1’. Passion fills the Albert Hall, travelling from stage to audience and viceversa in an emotional loop. The black and white of the jellyfish on screen and the lights contrast sharply with the red hot feelings floating in the venue. ‘Pioneer to the Falls’ sends the crowd into a trance, generating a karaoke moment that makes Banks stop singing and smile at the crowd singing back. Despite Kessler’s restlessness grabbing a lot of the attention, it is the quiet magnetic charisma of Paul Banks that holds everything together. By the way, Banks likes hip-hop and djs under the name DJ Fancypants.

A brief succession of songs from Antics concludes the first part of the set at around 22.20. Fogarino alternates surgical precision on tambourines to heavy sessions on drums and cymbals in a very interesting and never boring way.

Interpol leaves the stage for a few minutes, with fans screaming and stomping for more. The band comes back for a wonderful version of ‘All the Rage Back Home’, followed by a stripped-bare version of ‘NYC’ dominated by Truax’s bass, and the sombre ‘PDA’, where we finally hear and appreciate Brandon Curtis’ (of Secret Machines) keyboards, which make me think of the early Cure. Last song on the setlist is the fantastic ‘Leif Erikson’

Interpol triumph in this memorable show. A fittingly majestic location for an impressive performance that leaves me ecstatic. They certainly still have a lot to say and it will be interesting to see what direction the band will take in the future.

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Francesca Nottola

I write, translate, edit texts and take pictures. I solve problems for pensioners and create problems to everyone else. Sometimes a history researcher and language tutor, I would happily live in a national archive or in the head of professional musicians. Unfortunately, I say what I think