Interpol bring 00s NYC cool to Somerset House

After a lukewarm start, the revered Manhattan trio settle into a solid roll-call of hits in the grandest of settings

There’s something about listening to Interpol that transports you to another point in time. Maybe it’s their unique sound (twenty years on, no one sounds as ‘Paul Banks’ as Paul Banks himself), their smart yet sombre aesthetic, their sweat-soaked lyrics that carve the word ‘desire’ across your clubbed-out 5am soul. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. One thing’s for sure, tonight there are a lot of fans ready to be taken back for another spin around Interpol’s sun – despite the fact it’s still daylight when Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino take the stage as part of the Somerset House Summer Series.

First things first, watching Interpol in the kind-of daytime is mildly jarring (let’s face it, Interpol are the kings of after-hours barfly cool), which arguably affects the first few songs of the set. First track ‘Toni’ falls a little short of the ferocious opener we’d expect from a band that can usually backhand a crowd in the first few minutes of play. Even ‘Obstacle 1’, the first airing from 2001’s seminal Turn On The Bright Lights, feels a bit clumsy on this breezy yet balmy Monday evening. A change in tempo (or an unseen sound problem perhaps?) only adds to the overall sense of clunkiness, one that might not be as obvious if the same song were played to the smoking, streetlit darkness. Even ‘Narc’, with its gut-wrenching wail “you should be in my space, you should be in my life” sounds odd when you can legibly read what brand of socks the guy is wearing in front of you.

However, once the sun starts to set, things change. For the better. In the pink dusk, Interpol (and this set) comes alive. Banks’ voice hits its unmistakable stride with ‘My Desire’ and ‘Fables’ A groan of appreciation greets the beating heart bassline of Antics banger ‘Evil’. And yes, everyone is still waiting for ‘that’ groan two decades later. Settled in amongst the red stage lights and unseen disco ball, the false-start gives way to a slicker set. ‘Pioneer To The Falls’ delights as does ‘Rest My Chemistry’ from Our Love To Admire. Despite this settling in, it does feel like something is awry with the sound. “Thank you for your patience,” Banks says apologetically midway through the set. Thankfully, nighttime is more forgiving of these trespasses.

The hits come thick and fast. ‘No I in Threesome’, ‘Roland’ and ‘Leif Erikson’ are given room to ruminate, the crowd responding to each with an almost unspoken reverence. ‘PDA’ generates some modest movement on the cobbles underfoot, the slight discord of the track’s melody sounding muddy and full of memory. But naturally, it’s ‘Slow Hands’, the track that defined the indie sleaze clubkid generation that gets the crowd dancing (as it should). One complaint is that ‘Slow Hands’ sounds best played really f*cking loud on a sticky dive bar dancefloor (not in the grandiose surroundings of Somerset House where it’s gourmet vegan street food being peddled rather than three quid rum and cokes and Instax camera pics), but hey. Things have moved on, and for those of us that like to start our week with a big wallop of noughties nostalgia, this evening has been a joy.  

The Somerset House Summer Series continues throughout July with Olivia Dean, Beabadoobee, Tinariwen, The Comet Is Coming and Gazby. Find tickets here.

Photo credits: Josh Turner / @tomb_of_air