Hipsters fought among each other for position, pushing to get closer to the action as the SOMA stage filled with thick fog. Aphex Twin’s “Milkman” cut out, a church organ sounded and five suits emerged from the abyss. Paul Banks, the French-born singer with a fascination for hands, said screw the town – “we’re going to the city.”
Interpol, riding a dark wave of success from Antics (Matador Records), brought the black shirts back to San Diego. Talented musicians, yet also devout fashionistas, the band directs most focus on Carlos D, the lanky bassist with gun holsters at his sides and a red fascist armband. He spent the night running around on stage, while guitarist Daniel Kessler kept his enthusiasm to a minimum, preferring to periodically saunter toward Banks, then awkwardly return back to base like a bruised executive.
Once notorious for playing incoherent shows, both musically as well as vocally, I was surprised to find the performance very good. Too good. The songs sounded perfect; we’re talking 128-bit CD quality, and the lack of a raw, rough touch was actually disappointing. The lack of improvisation, song-to-song bridges, screw-ups and sound failures led me to believe that a DJ could have played the CD, turned it up loud and none of us would have known the difference.
Still, the songs themselves made the show well worth both the price and the drive down from L.A. On “Stella was a diver and she’s always down,” Kessler’s characteristic sad, crisp lines drove everyone into frenzy. Emotional disconnection and unrealized triumph with traces of anger prevailed that night, with Banks shouting “Each night / I bury my love around you” on “Say Hello to the Angels,” and “We spies / We slow hands / You put the weights all around yourself.”
Energy picked up during the encore, when Interpol performed “Specialist,” an unreleased older track full of confusion and bleak bitterness that sounds like a pilot episode for the rest of their music. “Now we’re moving, now we’re taking control / Love will get you down.” From there, the stage lights glowed bright red, and they bridged to “Roland”- a brutal, fast song about a killer from Poland.
The afterparty was held at Recognize, with Carlos D acting as DJ, spinning 80s music with bits of Metallica and Danzig just to rough things up. I asked him about his Nazilike armband, and he said, “It doesn’t say anything. It’s just red.” Cool – the superjew wouldn’t have to pick a fight with a rock star tonight. The rest of Interpol hid in the back of the small club, tucked away with their entourage and cases of Heineken, never losing an ounce of that mystery. Girls waited nearby to say a word to their idols, but by the time they got that chance, my friends and I were driving home, adjusting our silver ties, lacing up our black boots and reliving the concert on the car’s stereo.