All photos courtesy of BFAnyc.com.
“'Leif Erikson' is your favorite song right?” asks Sarah Lewitinn, aka Ultragrrrl, as I swoon next to her, goosebumps all over. We're watching Interpol, now two songs deep, perform at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I remember you writing that in a message you sent to me on Friendster.” We both laugh. Friendster: 2003 seems like a long time ago and it really was.
For the majority of the 2000s Interpol were the soundtrack to my everything. When I was heartbroken I sobbed to “Leif Erikson” on my bedroom floor, I danced in sticky clubs with terrible boys to “Slow Hands,” I listened to “Take You On A Cruise” on repeat, contemplating my naval and thinking would I ever have “a future with child.” I wondered why Paul was so obsessed with the ocean, marveled at his slyly sexy lyrics, and rejoiced in the rumble of Carlos D’s basslines. Until Carlos I didn’t even know basslines in indie rock could be so powerful or inventive. Along with The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Walkmen, and countless acts from that era who emerged, burned bright and flatlined, Interpol glamorized the grit and romance of New York City. Now those streets are just another sanitized metropolis, but back then it was the capital of everything where gangs of cool kids were making music informed in part by a post-9/11, edge-of-it all intensity. They partied hard and drank till dawn—at Lit, at 2A, at Black & White, at The Dark Room, at Don Hill's. Not that I was there, my palms were pressed up the against the glass as I gazed across the pond, making a silent pact with myself that one day I would leave England and move back to America, to New York City, because really where else in the world was there to be?
For me a shared love of Interpol cemented relationships that are now over a decade strong. Interpol also gave me my Almost Famous moment as a fresh-out-of-college, never-really-done-drugs rock writer, when, at their behest I ate magic mushrooms with them and Bloc Party and their entire touring party in Amsterdam. Except in this story the wide-eyed reporter didn’t save the rock star from his ill-advised trip, but rather Daniel Kessler had to save me, the too-green kid, from my own head.
Every music fan has one band like this (if not more, it’s OK to be polygamous), a band whose power is so inextricably wedded to the important moments, friendships, people, and experiences in your life. So to be standing in the Met, in the shadow of the Temple of Dendur, with deep red tones like those on the cover of Turn on The Bright Lights illuminating, not only these holy Egyptian relics, but also Interpol—well, let’s just say I’m in a state of rapture.
Not that I’m alone. Certainly, the setting engenders a sense of occasion: fans are sipping wine and nibbling free hors d'oeuvres, girls have slipped into dresses and heels, and of course, almost everyone is wearing black. At one point, during new song “My Desire,” Paul looks skyward, drinking in the grand setting, and allowing himself a private smile. And yet, seeing them in a venue like this is oddly not as incongruous as the idea of a rock band peforming at the Met intially appears. Of course it's miles away from the grime of Brownies (RIP), but even way back when Interpol were partying harder and dirtier than their more headline-grabbing peers, there was something elder statesmen-like and ineffably cool about how they handled themselves. They looked pulled together even if their heads were in disarray.
There's no question that with the Temple of Dendur looming large, this moment is one to savor, but there's also another kind of energy that runs through the crowd—a selection of hardcore fans, friends, and industry bods—because everyone assembled knows that their fifth album, El Pintor, is extraordinary. Tonight Interpol’s show relies heavily on their back catalogue with “Narc,” “Take You on a Cruise,” and the thrum of “Say Hello to Angels” providing some highlights in all around stellar set. But the real triumph lies not even in the three new tunes performed—“All The Rage,” “My Desire,” and “Same Town, New Story”—but rather in the fact that we want to hear more songs from El Pintor. Where was “Anywhere”? Where was “My Blue Supreme”?
Even as a diehard fan I concede that Our Love to Admire and Interpol were somewhat patchy affairs, which meant that on recent tours I craved nothing but TOTBL and Antics (with “No I in Threesome” and “Rest My Chemistry” thrown in for good measure). El Pintor is different: the tangled frisson of Paul and Daniel’s guitars, the propulsive thrill of Sam’s pin-sharp beats, and each dryly impassioned melody all hark back to those early years. They sound fresh and unguarded. Which is an amazing thing really because the older you get the more seen-it-all you become, the more other factors start to weigh on something which should be based on pure, gut-deep emotions. And that goes for both the music fan and the musician, but El Pintor is a heady rush and a reminder to give yourself over without reservation. Overthinking kills the thrill.
Last night's setlist. Photo by Karen Ruttner.
El Pintor is out on Matador on 9/8
Kim is an Editor at Noisey and she's on Twitter - @theKTB