Interpol at Radio City

By Salon Staff
Published March 4, 2005 7:13PM (EST)

Radio City Music Hall, that art-deco palace of a theater, has the history and the ambience to impart a rare and precious glamour upon the artists who play there. Not all bands are receptive, mind you -- although Maroon 5 performs there next month, they won't, I imagine, absorb a whiff of it -- but on Wednesday night Interpol, taking advantage of the hometown love (only in New York could they fill a 6,000 capacity theater two nights in a row), soaked up that glamour for all it was worth. In this cavernous space, with the partially furled curtain arcing impossibly high above the band's head, their music came off as positively majestic.

Drawing mostly on material from last year's "Antics," Interpol gave note-for-note performances, duplicating the doggedly restrained, bordering-on-comatose style of their studio arrangements with nothing added and nothing taken away. And despite guitarist Paul Kessler's occasionally glaring rhythmic weaknesses (he has a tendency to rush, and this music should never rush), they sounded perfectly, immaculately tight.

A lot of that tightness can be ascribed to the near robotic accuracy of singer Paul Banks, who sings his odd melodies (he often picks a note just one step removed from the one you'd expect) exactly in tune, and with a completely consistent tone across his entire range. He adds an equal touch of ominous, slightly fearful vibrato to every note, never emoting more or less. More than anything, he sings very, very loud. Every note is bellowed out with identical, overwhelming force. It's not deadpan -- almost the opposite, really -- it's so intense, so stylized, and so inhumanly consistent that the effect is numbing, a blank. It's a nifty trick: using an excess of emotion to project none at all.

Salon Staff

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