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last night's gig

Interpol Barely Flinches in Face of Fanatical Fans

Interpol singer Paul Banks at Bowery Ballroom on June 5.Photo: Amrit Singh, courtesy of Stereogum

Your enjoyment of live Interpol depends entirely on your definition of what a "good" live band is: one that performs the songs you love maximally close to the form you know, or one that uses the stage to go nuts. Interpol, the epitome of the former, are less a band than a song-delivery machine: black-suited, barely moving, never playing off the crowd. It bears remembering that, by the time this reporter had a chance to give them one of the first squirts of critical ink in the impossibly hazy 1999, Interpol had already cemented a set that would literally remain unchanged until Antics. Can you imagine them doing, say, an off-the-cuff cover for an encore? The only thing off-the-cuff about Interpol is Carlos D.'s cuff links.

At a somewhat secret Bowery Ballroom last night, Paul Banks hid behind his bangs and stole glances at his guitar neck as he strummed, the stage décor consisted of twelve unlit lightbulbs, and the banter amounted to a few thank-yous and two or three instances of that classically pointless utterance "This is a new one." The cool proficiency made the heated professions of audience love (one high-pitched "I love you, Interpol!" repeated, like a looped sample, after each song) feel like waves lapping on the shore.

What little showmanship there was emanated, as usual, from Carlos D., in the form of his occasional bass-god move and his monumentally villainous new mustache. The keyboardist's Stetson and some scuzzy vegetation on the guitarist's face added to the odd impression that, style-wise, the band are content to bite a two-year-old look from the Killers (who were, if you recall, originally sold as a kind of Top 40 version of Interpol). At least the music hasn't taken a turn toward Springsteen. In fact, it hasn't taken a turn, period: "The Heinrich Maneuver," the forthcoming album's single, slid into the set with such ease it could have been an extra verse from "Obstacle 1" or "Slow Hands." Variety is not why we love Interpol — most hits have more melodic variation between the same single's verse and chorus than there was in the entirety of Turn On the Bright Lights — it's the band's consistent cool, reliable ardor and unfailing elegance. Their entire oeuvre essentially consists of one long, great song; with the arrival of Our Love to Admire, that song's about to get 40 (or so) minutes longer. We can't wait. —Michael Idov