Interpol Performing Turn on the Bright Lights, Forest Hills Stadium 9/23

By Christian Lewis
Photo Credit: Amanda Hatfield

If you’ve listened to the podcast, you know that Interpol was one the defining bands of my teenage years, particularly their debut album Turn on the Bright Lights.

Seeing a band you love perform an album you adore can be a challenge. On the one hand, it’s difficult to objectively critique a performance of, well… your favorite album of all time. On the other, when that album is ingrained in a lifetime of listening, any difference between recorded songs and the performance of those songs tends to stand out. Heightened sensitivity to  these changes indeed allows for more attuned criticism. It’s with this tradeoff in mind that I offer the following thoughts.

Music and memory are perpetually intertwined. That was my mindset when I saw Interpol take the stage at Forest Hills Stadium to perform Turn on the Bright Lights, front-to-back. I encountered (appropriately) two obstacles.

Obstacle 1

I noticed a few of the same problems I detected when I last saw Interpol play at Boston’s House of Blues two years ago. Most noticeable was that Paul Banks’s voice sounded tinnier than I remember, something I’d love to blame on the backline were it not for the warmth and clarity of Brandon Cox’s vocals during Deerhunter’s opening set.

Obstacle 2

I saw Interpol four times from 2002-2005, three times touring Turn on the Bright Lights and once touring Antics, and Carlos D was always their most engaging performer. Looking back, many of the live performance issues this time were previously masked by the strength and volume of their rhythm section. Carlos’ chemistry with Sam Fogarino was palpable. They were tight. The splashy guitars were free to roam because the rhythm section was unflappable. Without Carlos D, the bass feels quiet and Dan Kessler trips up on his own delay effects too much, falling out of step with Fogarino and the (quite talented) imposter. This show gave me a realization: I felt the same way about Interpol’s tour bassist as children of divorce feel about their parent’s new mate. “You’re not my real bassist!”

Now, my overall review of the show as a self-proclaimed TOTBL megafan: I don’t really care about any of the irregularities and a beautiful September night at Forest Hills Stadium is as perfect a setting as any for a (broken)homecoming show.  It’s fun to watch a band play your favorite album under any circumstances. It’s even more rewarding to listen to my favorite album with 10,000 people who know every note, drum-fill, and lyric. It’s one of the last ways that music still creates community in the age of the internet.  

For an excellent photobook, check out Amanda Hatfield's shots here for Brooklyn Vegan:

Demian Kendall