There are a hundred things that can go wrong in a day. Thursday I went through a hundred and one. But if you’re one of those “glass half full” kinda folk, you also know one good thing can trump those 101 bad ones. I showed up to Austin Music Hall to watch School of Seven Bells and Interpol, and by the end of the show I’d forgotten the rest of my day had been complete shit.
School of Seven Bells opened the show. I’d had the pleasure of watching them before, but I never saw them with Claudia Deheza, twin sister of lead singer Alejandra. Claudia left the band in 2010 for personal reasons. But Alejandra and Benjamin Curtis have done just fine without her from what I can tell, and their performance was excellent. They opened with “My Cabal” and, right away, you could pick the Seven Bells virgins apart. They were the people who were truly listening. Because the place was still filling up, there wasn’t a lot of crowd energy during their set. People were talking and fidgeting and buying their beers. But there were still people just staring and listening. They followed with the beautiful “Babelonia” and “Windstorm,” both from their last album, Disconnect from Desire.
School of Seven Bells played a short set, one which unfortunately, couldn’t keep people’s attention for long. But hey, that’s the thing with opening acts—sometimes people couldn’t care less. They paid to watch Interpol. But then there’s that one person who gets pleasantly surprised. In this case, it was a middle-aged man dressed in all black who was so absorbed in their world of fantasy, he started, um…interpretive dancing? Or something of the sort. He moved and shook to the thundering beats. And yes, people stared.
After School of Seven Bells was done, it was a while ‘til we got to see Interpol. But even though they knew they had time to do whatever—get another beer, enjoy a smoke upstairs on the terrace—people still squeezed against the stage and waited. Men and women wearing Interpol tees, 40-somethings and 12-year-olds with their moms. We all waited.
The band opened with “Success” and let me just begin by saying: mother of all that is good and holy, did Paul Banks get hot. I realized that might have been the reason most of the people pressed up at the front were girls in their teens, looking up with obvious gazes of hope and lust. Interpol was at the top of their game. Even though Banks has got to have one of the strangest singing voices in the industry, with or without Ian Curtis comparisons, people simply love it. There was an energy about the place that built around guitar riffs of suspense, music that reeks of rock and post-punk tragedy. They went through hits like “Barricade” and “Narc,” the crowd clinging to their every word.
When they played “Specialist,” people just lost it. Interpol lyrics are always a bit extremist—they’re either completely literal, like “No I in Threesome” or completely confusing, like “Lights.” But however mysterious, their lyrics are cutthroat and strangely refreshing, and people respond to them. Under the dimmed red lights, the crowd entered a world of young girls (“Rest My Chemistry”) and pornographic subways (“NYC”), of massive drums and dizzying energy. The band didn’t interact with the audience much, except to say “thank you” in between songs. But as Daniel Kessler tore up the guitar and Banks’ neck veins popped, his face cherry red, you couldn’t care less if they did anything less.
There was a moment of stillness at one point, when the lights blinded the crowd and everyone’s beers went up to toast “The Heinrich Maneuver.” Once they were done, the band left the stage, teasing us. Chants of “Interpol” took over the venue, with the sudden shouts of “Free Bird” and “Stella,” silliness mixed with palpable tension in the hopes of an encore. We all knew they would come back, we knew. But as they returned to the stage and “Evil” began, the screaming blurred with the singing and it was obvious this song was the crowd favorite. I think “Evil” is most people’s favorites—its slow beginning with the maddening verses that marked the song, and Interpol, forever. The show was long but fast, and when it was done people shuffled out clumsily, excitedly, hesitantly. We didn’t want to leave. After “Slow Hands” and the sweet, slow start of “The New,” we didn’t want to leave.
So, yes. There are a hundred things that can go wrong in a day. Thursday I went through a hundred and one. Then I went to Interpol.
My Thursday was great, thank you very much.
(Interpol performed at Austin Music Hall on April 21, 2011)