No surprises pop up at an Interpol concert. The lighting is dark — no spotlights please, just side lighting with blues, greens and reds — the guitars generate a piercing sound that’s never allowed to sustain or shimmer; keyboards, bass and drums lock into a driving, molten beat; and the words produced by Paul Banks’ emotionally distant baritone distinguish the current song from the previous. It’s about the celebration of a sound, which has only become more grand and sweeping over time, rather than individual tunes, and it has a particular hypnotic effect.
The open floor at the Forum Tuesday was packed and orderly; the New York band’s members don’t move much onstage and the captive audience mirrors the band. Still, Interpol, one of the early leaders of the wave of indie rock bands that blossomed in Gotham and London at the turn of the century, galvanizes the crowd through a visceral intensity that’s more likely to incite toe-tapping than arm waving or mosh pits. The audience is there to absorb the band’s presence.
It creates a curious give-and-take. Interpol creates a level playing field out of its material and the audience heaps only minimally more praise on a hit than an album track. It give the band the leeway to treat a solid 3-year-old album track like “C’mere” in the same fashion as the infectious radio hits “The Heinrich Maneuver” (the one that opens “how are things on the West Coast”) and “Slow Hands.” On the last night of the domestic portion of their tour, the band members prove they have no showstoppers, just a solid, 90-minute show.
In Interpol’s six years, it has reminded the 21st century’s youth of the potency of a sound developed by Joy Division 30 years ago. Having made the leap to a major label, Capitol, the quintet has not turned its back on the sound that got it to this place, only increased the number of melodic touchpoints — in concert, one can now hear shades of the Buzzcocks, the Cure and even Badfinger in its sound. In an era of emphasis of hit singles — and in a perfect world Tuesday’s expertly executed “No I in Threesome” would be one — Interpol is a true alternative: A band providing a soundtrack for the lives of a devoted audience.