Interpol at the Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, MI, July 27, 2007

An organ begins the show with a long, steady whole note. A timpani-like thudding introduces time to the note, thus creating music out of a noise, offering an entrance for guitarist Daniel Kessler to begin playing the opening notes to “Pioneer to the Falls,” the first song on Interpol’s new album, Our Love to Admire. Kessler is illumined by a steel-blue blade of light from the rafters and stands in an inverted bow-legged posture, nearly crouching, twisting his torso with a motion that conjures a picture of an oarsman heaving a paddle through heavy waters, against the current, the neck of the guitar his oar.

Then Paul Banks delivers his first words with a brassy moan which is not sharp-brassy like a trumpet but smooth-brassy like a French Horn. The crowd moves along with the music, ecstatic at the band’s entrance, and just as bassist Carlos Dengler (currently mustachio’d) and drummer Sam Fogarino join in, I see fists airborne in the front row, and a straw cowboy hat, rising above all the other hands, beating up and down in time.

An Interpol concert isn’t really an intimate affair in the traditional way. They don’t really talk into the mic. You certainly won’t hear any funny road stories or even a “Hello (insert concert location at that moment here)” to the audience. The crowd is lucky to get a couple off-hand glances from Paul Banks while being completely ignored by the rest of the band.

However, the deep and intense emotional content of their music makes mine and everyone else’s presence a personal and intimate one. Maybe it’s the darkness of the auditorium, the lighting, the pulsating songs, but I find that no other band can so easily make me forget that the audience exists and believe that I’m alone in a dark candlelit room feeling a surge of emotion energy charging through me.

Midway through the show, I started to think of the title of their new album, Our Love to Admire. It’s an unexpected title for a band with songs as obscurely titled as “Obstacle 1″ and “Obstacle 2″ and “Untitled” or as creepy as “Public Pervert,” which is immediately followed on their second record Antics by the ominously named “C’Mere,” as if said pervert is first to be introduced and then set on his depraved prowl.

Our Love to Admire. Well, I could certainly see the admiration all around me. I admire their music, and could see nothing but admiration all around me if not downright adoration. But what’s this love we’re so enthusiastically admiring?
Interpol offeres few clues during the show, the most transparent being the “BREASTS” sticker displayed on the flying-V guitar Banks plays on “The Scale.” I read through their lyrics before the show and was astonished that Banks does sing the words “love” and “heart” quite often, a fact I never really noticed before. But their lyrics are often extremely obscure, if not almost absurdly so at times (“You wear those shoes like a dove”) and will not give you an easy idea of what the song is about or reveal any particular narrative. The songs always hint, never tell.

And maybe that’s why their music is so seductive, why it works to intensify many different kinds of moods, emboldens them, and gives them a soundtrack, a pulse. This thought makes me realize that I’m not alone–jars me from my reverie. In fact, I’m in a room with a couple hundred people, a slew of people with sundry moods currently being intensified likewise. But not like mine.

I look around and think, “Wait a minute, this is a rock show!” I’m surprised by the amount of hand clapping. I’m focused on the straw cowboy hat-wearing dude in the front row. Maybe the show isn’t the intimate kind of experience for everyone else. The fist pumping, dancing, and clapping makes me think that the Interpol experience for most people isn’t so much Jeff Buckley Grace ecstacy as much as AC/DC arena-intensity. Is the chorus “Today my heart swings” the equivalent of “Kiss me, please kiss me” or “You Shook My All Night Long”? In fact, one of the audience members I talk to during the show exclaims loudly that “This is the INXS for our generation,” an entirely new possibility. I find that I had closed the book on the admiration question far too soon.

But this sudden revelation makes me want to give up the questioning and just start enjoying the show. I admire them, the guy in the cowboy hat admires them, everyone here admires them, so I guess that’s really all that matters. It’s probably better not to figure out the love they talk about, or it may just ruin the music for me–if I probe too deeply into why I like the music so much, it may cause me to cease liking the music. The aura and mystery and purity of the music may be lost.

Then, as the band ends their encore with “PDA,” I think back to the “BREASTS” sticker and listen to Banks sing “We have 200 couches where you can sleep tonight” and remember that for as meaningful as this music can be to me, these are still four dudes in a band, who, most likely, started a band for the same reason most guys start bands. And then the INXS comparison pops back into my head and I realize that it’s time to get another drink and just enjoy the rest of my night.
Posted by Scotter

Setlist:*

Pioneer to the Falls
Obstacle 1
Say Hello to the Angels
Rest My Chemistry
Mammoth
Slow Hands
The Scale
Heinrich Maneuver
Evil
Not Even Jail

Encore:

NYC
Stella Was a Diver
PDA

*This set list is not completely accurate, but the best my poor handwriting and impaired memory could muster.

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7 Comments

  1. sessions
    Posted August 3, 2007 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    oh the interpol.

    im disappointed im going to miss them at Lollapalooza but after reading this i really want to see them in a indoor venue. the setlist gave me a chill, may be the best ever.

  2. Anthony
    Posted August 4, 2007 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Great article; although, the setlist that you have is wrong. they didn’t play C’mere and you’re missing Evil, Narc, & Public Pervert.

  3. Posted August 4, 2007 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for your comments about the set list. Yeah, I had a feeling I had a few inaccuracies. I’ve replaced “Evil” for “C’Mere,” but can figure out through my illegibly scribbled notes where to put “Narc” and “Public Pervert.” Do you remember where in the set list they played these songs, so that I can update the site?

    And thanks a lot for reading.

  4. Posted August 6, 2007 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Excellent write-up of the show, Scotter. It’s great to hear that the fans are showing more love for the band live, too. When I first saw Interpol in ’02 the audience was just as somber as the music.

  5. z0zzy
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    even though carlos d. annoys the shit out of me, he and sam combine to make one of the best rhythm sections i’ve ever seen live. their show in detroit city (the day after the orbit room) gave me the chills on several different occasions.

  6. Anthony
    Posted August 14, 2007 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    No problem dude. just trying to help out. i’m not positive but i do know they played Narc & Public Pervert some where between Slow Hands and Evil. my guess is they played Narc after The Scale and Public Pervert after that. i’m probably wrong but it’s my best guess.

  7. chris
    Posted September 6, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Hey great review. Sweet concert too. I was wondering if you have any more pics of this concert that you could upload to flickr or somewhere.

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