Interpol @ The Scala Theatre, London, 14th September 2004

Tonight at the Scala Theatre in North London, Interpol are about to play only their second live show in the UK this year. They’ve been away since the 2003 summer festival circuit recording their second album and touring with seminal British Goth-rockers The Cure on the Curiosa Festival. This is no small occasion; a band with Interpol’s following should be selling out the top end capacity venues, so it was no surprise when news reached us that tickets for tonight’s show in this rather cosy venue were snapped up in under ten minutes. A full UK tour has been arranged for later this year, so these shows are all about unveiling their new album and assuring the British public that doom and gloom style rock is still very much in fashion.

At about quarter to ten, after a promising support slot from fellow New Yorkers The Double, the lights go down and the noise level from the crowd is almost unbearable. Sporting their trademark funeral attire, the band stroll nonchalantly on stage, their faces obscured by clouds of cigarette smoke. What the audience are about to witness is an incredibly workmanlike set – there’s no mucking about, just a fifty minute display of immaculate rock ‘n’ roll.

The fantastic Obstacle 1 kicks off proceedings, and what is immediately noticeable is how tight everything is - the guitars are in tune, the drums are pulsating and Bank’s hypnotic vocals are pitch perfect. They’re also a different prospect live – the songs are heavier than on record and are delivered with an intensity that many bands find hard to reach. There’s a venom in Banks’ eyes as he sings, perhaps it’s a large middle finger to anyone who’s labelled the group as dreary eyed and boring, or perhaps we’ve just caught Interpol on the top of their game. Whatever the reason, it makes for a thrilling set.

The new album Antics will be with us before the end of the month, and the band don’t keep us waiting to hear material off it. Evil opens up with a mesmerising bass riff, before bursting into a chorus so catchy that many will be singing it all the way home. Old favourite Say Hello To The Angels has crowd members dancing as if it were a Franz Ferdinand gig, and excellent new single Slow Hands is their passport to the heady heights of heavy MTV2 and Radio 1 rotation. Well they certainly deserve it – with reports of the new album recording process driving the band ‘to the edge,’ it seems only fitting that the results are nothing short of spectacular.

By the time the sublime ending to set closer PDA is being played, Interpol’s work has been done. They’ve convinced everyone here that they’re one of the best rock bands around who are about to exceed even the most lofty expectations with the release of their new LP. If Antics doesn’t transform Interpol from just another New York band to festival headliners, there’s something seriously wrong in the world.

Jeremy Lloyd