Interpol played the Orpheum – 9/11

Post-punk revivalist mainstays Interpol headlined Boston’s Orpheum Theatre last Tuesday in support of their latest record, joined by fellow NYC trio Sunflower Bean. 

Interpol released Marauder, their sixth full-length, late last month, and if you’ve ever heard an Interpol record before, you can pretty well fathom exactly what it sounds like. The band – officially a trio of guitarist/vocalist Paul Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino since the 2010 departure of bassist Carlos Dengler – has never been much for surprises, and that remains true as ever in 2018. Banks’ icy caterwaul and cryptic lyrics, he and Kessler’s pointed guitar work and the propulsive rumble of a tight rhythm section guided Interpol’s stylishly austere sound on their immortal 2002 debut Turn On the Bright Lights just as they have, for better or worse, ever since.

Banks and company have certainly weathered their fair share of criticism for diminishing returns in the intervening years, and depending which side of a certain fence one chooses to occupy, records like Marauder and 2014’s El Pintor can either signify idle wheel-spinning or the sound of a band comfortably – if not ambitiously –  embracing its strengths. Most days, I’d vote for the latter. After all, the group practically qualifies as classic rock in the realm of indie at this point. Meet Me In The Bathroom, Lizzy Goodman’s masterful oral history of the 00s scene that birthed Interpol and their contemporaries, formally commits the band’s hard-partying early mythology to historical record, and last September found them indulging in the anniversary show tradition for Bright Lights‘ 15th. (Not to speak ill of the anniversary gig – the Bright Lights show ruled).

The Interpol of 2018 scan as less dangerous, and about 1000% more sober, but as Tuesday night illustrated, they can still deliver the goods. Stoic, sharply dressed and lit by moody blues and reds punctuated by the occasional onslaught of strobes, Banks, Kessler, Fogarino and touring members Brandon Curtis and Brad Truax sounded appropriately, stylishly austere in a career-spanning survey. Bright Lights and its 2004 followup Antics remain the band’s career highlights, but new songs like the propulsive “The Rover” and mid-career major label selects like “Mammoth” undercut the popular notion that they haven’t written songs worth hearing since.

A slight case of by-the-numbers fatigue set in around the set’s three-quarter mark – where a slightly less by-the-numbers new song like the record-closing “It Probably Matters” would’ve done some good – but for fans who have stuck with the band for the long haul (and there seemed to be plenty in the room), there was little cause for disappointment. And even for a naysayer, an encore-closing “Obstacle 1” was arguably worth the price of admission. You’d be hard pressed to find a band this side of death metal that could make stabbing yourself in the neck sound so triumphant.

Up-and-comers Sunflower Bean, who released their sophomore LP Twentytwo In Blue in March, played a tight and confident opening set that lent more edge and energy to their garage-pop than the records might suggest. Check out photos from both sets below.