At this point in the iconic post-punk band’s existence, there are two distinctly different eras of Interpol. There’s the indie blog darling that came out of nowhere with a pair or formidable, borderline-legendary albums overflowing in mystique, high fashion, and New York chic. Then there’s the remnant of an early-century heyday who started its creative decline during the peak of its commercial prosperity (Our Love To Admire) which is currently sidled with the impossible burden of trying to match the significance of its two albums that were released more than 10 years ago with each new release, while simultaneously trying to distance said new releases from their storied past. A sold out crowd convened at Pabst Theater Saturday to see a band with no shortage of beloved backlog that also happened to be touring in support of its months-old El Pintor.
After 90 minutes and close to 20 songs pulled from all five albums, Interpol perfectly displayed the duality of a dynasty act which also needed to promote its new record. Quickly squashing any worries the band would avoid Turn On The Bright Lights, Interpol started strong and upbeat with “Say Hello To Angels,” one of the more boisterous numbers from its celebrated debut. Starting the set-long balancing act between old and new material, they chased the lively deep cut with the downcast “My Blue Supreme” and driving “Anywhere”—both off El Pintor. From there, Antics standout “Evil” and Bright Lights bright spot “Hands Away” followed, and a theme was effectively set.
For each new song (the majority of which were sonically closer to the sweet spot on early-aughts Interpol than its two most recent predecessors) that weren’t yet tour-tested or, worse yet, Interpol’s few set selections from the widely-detested self-titled record, Paul Banks and co. rewarded diehards with obscure treasures from the back catalog. Brand new “Desire” begot an album-quality rendition of atmospheric “Take Your On A Cruise” (off Antics), and a brief mid-show lull of default self-titled single “Lights” paired with middling El Pintor‘s “Breaker 1” was exorcised with well-liked Our Love to Admire song “Rest My Chemistry”, “PDA” (Bright Lights) and the band’s biggest radio single to date, “Slow Hands” from Antics to keep the balance in tact.
Regardless of which period material was pulled, the band played flawless, energetic, and Bank’s vocals mirrored the sharp, unmistakable tone employed on each record to a T. After departing the stage to (as Bank alleged) drink a Pabst—which, embarrassingly, garnered the largest reaction the 1,300 people in attendance would offer all night—the blend of old an new continued into the encore. Especially enjoyable new cut “All The Rage Back Home” injected some life into the ass-end of the performance before Interpol would turn down the tempo via Turn On The Bright Lights-culled closers “NYC” and “Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down” before calling it a night.
Interpol is in a tight spot these days. Had they buoyed the set with new material for the sake of freshness and promotion, it would have been utterly disappointing to everyone but the men on stage. However, had the tour been billed as some type of “12 Years Of Bright Lights” front-to-back album anniversary tour, it would be a direct acknowledgement the band’s best days were in the rear view mirror. Instead of alienating anyone entirely, Interpol succeeded by approaching their tour like a seasoned actor chooses roles late in his once-significant career: one for us, one for them. Beyond omitting “Obstacle 1” from the set as either a means of maintaining balance between albums traversed during the show or, more likely, akin to how Counting Crows won’t play “Mr. Jones” anymore, Interpol did no wrong at the Pabst.
There might be two drastically divergent constructs of Interpol in circulation at this point, but a self-aware setlist selection (and high-level execution of said setlist) effectively connected the special band responsible for two of the better albums released so far this young century with the indie rock elder statesmen who have continued to show occasional glimmers of greatness on every release after.