As fall ended in Washington, DC, with colder days, the pace of the live music concert schedule slowed with the approach of Christmas Day. But to the wonder of DC’s dancing denizens, New York post-punks Interpol brightened both our attitudes and our calendars considerably by announcing three late-year dates at 9:30 Club — all of which promptly sold out.
On the first of those three dates, Interpol frontman Paul Banks and company burst onto the stage with vigor and verve, clearly very pleased with the opportunity to combat the pending winter doldrums with a fine selection of tunes selected from each of the band’s seven studio albums.
At 9:30 Club on Dec. 16, Interpol opened with fan-favorites from debut album Turn on the Bright Lights, flaming the fire of the show with a satisfying slow burn. Interpol spent much of 2023 on tour as openers for the Smashing Pumpkins, and so this was a wondrous opportunity for the band to expansively stretch out and fully display their showmanship and their clever and cutting songwriting. Turn on the Bright Lights holds a special place in the public consciousness as the dawn of the post-punk revival, and it remains special to Interpol fans not only for its bite but also for the clear chemistry between Banks and guitarist Daniel Kessler — the two remaining founders of the band and co-writers on the record.
And so, the three permanent members of Interpol took a special pride in presenting four tracks from the debut record, all hotly anticipated by the capacity crowd. Interpol opened the show with “Untitled” and “Obstacle 1.” A personal favorite moment occurred during “Untitled” when Paul knelt before his effects pedals and carefully modulated the feedback burst through a measure of the song. The band then engaged the audience directly with “Obstacle 1” and later closed the main set with “PDA” and included “Leif Ericson” in the encore.
Watch the official music video for “Obstacle 1” by Interpol on YouTuber:
Daniel Kessler, who recruited Banks to co-found Interpol back in 1997, was having the time of his life during the show. The well-dressed, lean, and energetic guitarist danced nonstop on stage right as he thumped through the 19-song setlist, gracefully kicking up his legs during “Narc,” one of five selections performed from Antics, Interpol’s furious and formidable sophomore album. He clearly was there to cut loose, and the audience was thrilled.
After Antics and Bright Lights, Interpol favored The Other Side of Make Believe, their most recent record, with three songs and Our Love to Admire (2007), their awesome third album, with another three. We caught Interpol on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins at Jiffy Lube Live back in August, but we didn’t catch you up on Interpol. So then our last direct Interpol review was in May 2022, when they capably headlined The Anthem but right before the release of The Other Side of Make Believe.
A bit then about this latest album! Interpol pulled three songs from it, presenting “Into the Night” in the first third of the show. They played lead single “Toni” at about the two-thirds mark and followed it immediately with “Something Changed,” also from Make Believe. These two songs formed part of an absorbing chain of songs that for me began with “All the Rage Back Home” from El Pintor (2014) and ended with “Evil” (which appears on Antics). “Something Changed” struck me live as a remarkable song that contained flashes of David Bowie. Not only does the song have a character somewhat similar to “Ashes to Ashes” but the timber of Paul’s voice also struck me as reminiscent of Mr. Bowie.
Watch the official music video for “Something Changed” by Interpol on YouTube:
In the middle of the show, Interpol acknowledged their self-titled fourth album (2010) and sixth album Marauder (2018) with a song each — “Lights” and “The Rover,” respectively.
Interpol capped this very strong setlist with a killer encore that took us back to Turn on the Bright Lights with “Leif” and “Slow Hands” but also Our Love to Admire with “No I in Threesome.” Throughout the show, the band shared a tremendous energy between the three principals and the two touring members — Brandon Curtis on keys and Brad Truax on bass. The band moved as a unit throughout the show and really shined brightly through the encore, punctuating a mesmerizing performance with “Slow Hands.”
Thanks to Interpol for enlivening these waning cold days of fall with three nights brilliant music. And for thinking of us just south in DC rather than keeping these shows home in New York City.
Interpol hit the road again in 2024, so make a point to catch them then! (I will see them next at the 2024 Cruel World Festival in Pasadena, California.)
Here are some photos of Interpol performing at 9:30 Club on Dec. 16, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.