Sunday 18 February 2018

Review: Interpol at Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Interpol in past years
El Pintor, Interpol
Ed Power

Ed Power

Certain things come as standard at an Interpol concert. Dark suits will be worn, pasted-on scowls displayed, staccato riffs etched out amid pools of chilly luminescence shed by unwavering spotlights.

But lately the New York goth-poppers have added to their box of tricks. Fifth album El Pintor is positively brisk, with catchy choruses and easy-on-the-ear guitars. For fans craving a return to the first principles of Interpol's early music this intense, downbeat record offered a multitude of reasons to be cheerful.

On stage, meanwhile, the dapper three-piece have adopted a radical new strategy of looking as if they might possibly be enjoying themselves. At the Olympia, singer Paul Banks seemed peppy and determined; guitarist Daniel Kessler, the tortured auteur largely responsible for the band's minimalist sound, almost appeared to grin at one point. Verily, it was a pinch-yourself moment.

How  much of this is due to the departure of bassist Carlos Dengler is difficult to say. A self-proclaimed 'dandy' with unsettling facial hair,by all accounts Dangler was the driving force behind  Interpol's mid-career veer into dissonant artiness, an alienating aesthetic that reached its nedar with 2010's 'Interpol'. Stygian, impenetrably bleak, here was the sound of musicians trapped between baroque and a hard place. 

With 'Carlos D' – as he insisted on being known – out of the picture, Interpol have learned how to smile again (though only in the figurative sense, naturally ). On the first of three nights in Dublin, the group delivered a punchy performance, moving easily between catalogue favourites such as Slow Hands and Say Hello To The Angels and zippy El Pintor standouts All The Rage Back Home and My Desire.

READ: Interpol's frontman Paul Banks happy to be in Dublin - home of his hero, Bono

That the new tracks were welcomed as heartily as the older stuff speaks to the scale of their recent rejuvenation.  The band haven't quite stooped to repeating themselves - rather they are reimagining vintage tropes in new ways. It was good to have them back to their gloomy, imperious best.

At Olympia, Dublin tonight (Wednesday) and Thursday.

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