Interpol And Perfume Genius At The Shrine Expo Hall, Thursday April 16th 2015
Los Angeles always offers tons of concerts during any given week, but it reached a crazy number this week, the four-five days stuck between the two Coachella weekends. A Perfume Genius-Interpol bill was very tempting although I was not particularly a fan of the venue, the Shrine Expo Hall, a long hallway where you can’t see much when you are not in the front and as short as me…. Fortunately I managed to almost get at the front – despite my late arrival when people had started to line up at 2 pm! – but even there the view wasn’t perfect. Perfume Genius probably opened for Interpol because both bands share the same label (Matador), at least this is the only reason I can find since I am not that sure they exactly share the same audience.
I saw Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius in a more intimate place (the Roxy) a few months ago, and his sexy aggressive number worked so well at the time,… at the Shrine, I am not so sure, may be it was a night off, probably he knew he was not the star of the show, but I got the impression he gave us a rapid digest of his Roxy performance with more hymn-like songs sitting at the piano and less of his confident sashay. Still he did his sexy-dirty twerking dance and played some of the great songs off his latest ‘Too Bright’, wearing fishnet stockings while singing with the voice of an angel,… but I wanting more, more of this in-my-face-exploding numbers intertwining a fragility and an extraordinary boldness… There were some chills during the screamed and intense ‘Grid’, the heartbreaking ‘Fool’ and the brilliant ‘Queen’, but I want to see him again, in another place where I can see his red lipstick smearing on his face when he has this angry look.
But if Hadreas was the queen of the night, Interpol were the kings, bringing their powerful guitars in full action and having a triumphant night. The crowd was so enthusiastic, they had to come for a second encore, and, toward the end of the show, some puissant girls pushed people to get in the front, and even started a serious brawl just behind me, appropriately during ‘All the Rage Back Home’. How could Interpol’s music inspire this kind of violence? However, most of time people were passionate but civilized only expressing their love for the New York band with fists in the air and warm clapping.
Interpol’s music is a dark beauty that can be savored without any artifices, they actually don’t do much on stage. They may have an album called Antics, but there are none going on during their shows, Paul Banks doesn’t move much, although guitarist Daniel Kessler put some real fire in the performance. All night long they relay on Banks’ monochord, nasal and detached baritone, and their signature sound built around these layers of piercing, soaring or dancing guitars and distinctive basslines, although they have lost their bass-star Carlos Dengler in 2010. But life did continue for Interpol, with ‘El Pintor’, which nevertheless doesn’t really deliver the same caliber of hits as ‘Our Love to Admire’ or ‘Antics’ did. ‘All the Rage Back Home’ is their closest-to-a-hit song on this new album, and they kept it for the very end of the show, so all-set long, they alternated between new songs, crowd-pleasers such as ‘Evil’, ‘Rest My Chemistry’, ‘Narc’, ‘Pioneer to the Falls’, ‘Slow Hands’ and less well-known songs, at least to me. The delivery was superb, professional and efficient – may be a bit sterile at the same time? – the vibes were Joy-Division-dark, sometimes offered as a new dance floor, which could sound totally out-of-place in this lugubrious context but nevertheless worked very well each time. An Interpol show is intense and it doesn’t give you any time to breathe, the band wrapped the large hall in a kaleidoscopic trance, with a pulsating chaos pounding like a fast heartbeat, pulverizing the place with elegance and confidence.
Still, the old songs are the ones which worked the best for me, ‘Rest my Chemistry’ and its guitars which seemed to fall from a 100-feet-tall tower, or the disorienting ‘Narc’, the whirlpool-like ‘Not Even Jail’ and ‘Slow Hands’, which always seems to navigate between darkness, depression, aggression and empowerment… ‘You fucking rocked it’, said Banks with a beautiful smile after this last song. It was one of his rare interactions with the crowd, and at this level he must be the anti-thesis of Father John Misty, whom I just saw a few days ago. But who needs the talking when there is such an intense reaction from the audience? The dramatic and cold delivery builds the décor and nothing else matters.
Where I was standing, people were more showing fists and bouncing than doing some real dancing, but they were acclaiming as a unique organism. It’s true there is a real empowering and defiant quality to some of these songs thanks to their icy sound, their abrupt interruptions and their dream of grandiose,… after five albums, Interpol still succeeds at impressing its adoring public, and still manages to be inspired by the crowd’s reaction. The band tweeted this today: ‘LLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAA! You really are our home away from home. Hot damn, you tore the roof off the old Shrine last night. Incredible!’… which sounds so sweet for a band which looked at the top of the world on Thursday night.
Say Hello to the Angels
My Blue Supreme
Rest My Chemistry
Everything Is Wrong
Not Even Jail
Pioneer to the Falls
All the Rage Back Home