Interpol Turn On the Bright Lights For Summer Series At Somerset House

I mean, wow! The first time I saw Interpol was at Ally Pally in 2007, having just released their third album Our Love To Admire and Paul Banks had a ridiculous fringe. To this day, still one of the best gigs I’ve been to, from what I can remember of the extremely booze-filled day and night. It was raw and rough around the edges. Never did I think that I’d see them somewhere like Somerset House. Interpol is a band that you’d associate with the emerging New York indie rock scene from late 90s into the early 00s. Paul Banks (vocals/guitar), Daniel Kessler (guitar), Sam Fogarino (drums) and back then also Carlos Dengler (bass), who subsequently left the band in 2010, were an integral part of a renaissance period in rock music, at a time when New York was going through one of its darkest periods.

Interpol @ Somerset House Summer Series

Paul Banks of Interpol @ Summer Series at Somerset House (Dnieper Cruz)
Paul Banks of Interpol @ Summer Series at Somerset House (Dnieper Cruz)

Every year in July, Somerset House hosts its Summer Series, when it amasses huge and diverse talent from across the globe, over various evenings. Held in its Georgian era courtyard for an intimate experience with a 3,000 capacity, it’s the ideal location to host one of the most ground-breaking bands in recent times. Ice rink by winter and al-fresco concerts by summer, what more could you want?

Tonight’s support comes from The Lounge Society, hailing from West Yorkshire. They’ve been on an upward journey since releasing their debut album Tired Of Liberty last year, having previously opened for The Strokes (there seems to be a pattern emerging). No doubt there’s a part of these guys that wish they had been born 20 years earlier and 3,000 miles further west. With shaggy curly hair and neat sideburns, they bring contagious guitar riffs and words with political undertones, from their unique and personal northern perspective. They greet the now mostly filled square and show off their musical confidence. They prove that they can be an important part of the indie rock scene in the 20s, bringing it back to life once again.

The NYC indie veterans walk onto the stage waving to the crowd through the dense stage fog. Someone was having a field day with the smoke machine and seriously working it into the ground. As they open with Toni, the first single from the latest album The Other Side Of Make-Believe, the greyish haze is turned up to 11. Every band member is now almost completely hidden behind a thick layer of smoke and it’s a tricky one to shoot. Looking around, other photographers also seem puzzled.

They quickly move onto Obstacle 1 from their debut album released all the way back in 2002, Turn On The Bright Lights. Always a favourite to have as part of the setlist and the crowd immediately recognises the swift initial chords from Banks and Kessler.

Tonight, is not a show focused on their 2022 record, but instead mostly alternating between beloved tracks from Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics, with other popular tracks from Pioneer To The Falls.

The first big cheer of recognition from the crowd goes to Evil, upon hearing one of the most identifiable bass riffs in the indie world. In unison, the crowd chants alongside Banks “Rosemary, heaven restores you in life”, but it quickly dissipates into mumbling as we realise that no one actually properly knows the words of the first chorus. As in all the previous times I’ve seen them live, Fogarino will come in furiously on the drums playing it double speed. There’s a sudden change in tempo and the vocals struggle to keep up with the pace. I used to find the rushing quite irritating, but I’ve now started to play a game where I try and guess just how fast he’ll make Banks sing.

Bank’s is distracted by his earpiece and keeps fiddling with it. There’s a short pause after Pioneer To The Falls, and Banks is off stage for a few minutes after Rest My Chemistry. He returns, presumably with newly fit earpieces, and thanks the crowd for their patience. I don’t think anyone truly minded. Now more settled, the band are laser focused when delivering C’mere, No I In Threesome, and Roland. Wonderfully composed songs from across three different eras in the band’s discography and the crowd should be going wild for it, but everyone bar a handful of people, seem flat. I blame the Monday Blues.

It’s a relatively short set, and after Leif Erikson and PDA we’re nearing the end. The band momentarily give us a wave and steps off stage. They return first with Lights from their eponymous 2010 record and every time I’m left wishing they had played more from this incredibly underrated album. As Kessler delivers his signature rhythm on a vintage sunburnt Epiphone Casino, the crowd goes into a frenzy for Slow Hands. It signals a farewell from the band and feels bittersweet. With Fogarino’s not so slow hands, it all comes to an end too soon.

For a band that has been consistently active for two decades and then some, they’ve always remained true to their musical style. It’s one of the reasons why I always come back to Interpol after all this time. Moody and unpretentious, they deliver rock-solid performances and tonight is no exception. Bank’s live vocals has faltered once or twice in the past, but this is the best I’ve heard him. It’s all testament to the fact that whatever unpredictable shit the world may throw at us in the future, we can be confident that the NYC trio will remain a constant in our lives.

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Live review and photography of Interpol @ Summer Series At Somerset House by Dnieper Cruz on 10th July 2023

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