Interpol | SoCal | Review | Pics

Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Interpol with School of Seven Bells :: 02.04.11 :: UCSB Thunderdome :: Santa Barbara, CA

School of Seven Bells by L. Paul Mann
Interpol made a stop on their current U.S. Tour, in Santa Barbara, to play on the UCSB campus. The Thunderdome - which seats 6,000 fans for basketball games - rarely has concerts. But when they do they tend to be grandiose affairs with an arena filling sound system to fill the void of an echo plagued gymnasium. The few shows at the venue tend to feature big, hit making groups like The Killers, a few years ago, or The Police, a few decades ago. Interpol seemed to fit the bill this year with a decade of hits to share with a crowd of eager college kids.

Opening act School of Seven Bells set the mood for the evening, creating a dark, demure presence in the eerie lighting on the cavernous stage. The trio of musicians created a rich, brooding sound sometimes referred to as Dream Pop. In fact, lead singer Alejandra Deheza admits to being a lucid dreamer, which may account for her ethereal lyrics. Along with her sister Claudia, who used to plays drums, the identical twins met guitarist Benjamin Curtis (ex-Secret Machines) when their respective former bands were opening for an Interpol concert several years ago. The band allegedly took their name from a PBS documentary about the School of Seven Bells, a myth about a school for South American pickpockets. The concept of seven minds working together became a cementing force behind the band’s fanciful lyrics. Alejandra's haunting voice, sometimes reminiscent of Bjork, is molded into a trance-like sound with Curtis applying multiple layers of electronic sound and guitar. Unfortunately, the old harmonies Dehaza used to exchange with her twin sister were missing, as Claudia has left the band, replaced by drummer Zachary Saginaw. Fans of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim may recognize the band’s music as regular part of their soundtracks.

Interpol by L. Paul Mann
By the time Interpol appeared for their headline set, the Thunderdome was packed with about 5000 eager young fans pressed mostly around the front of the stage. The band immediately launched into a steady string of instantly recognizable hit songs. Interpol included two new faces for the current tour. Veteran indie rockers David Pajo and Brandon Curtis (Secret Machines) took over bass and keyboard duties, respectively. The instantly recognizable voice of founding member Paul Banks had the crowd erupting with excitement as he belted out well known lyrics from the group’s four albums. Other original members still playing in the band included guitarist Daniel Kessler and longtime drummer Sam Fogarino.

A decade ago, Interpol may have been the first band responsible for resurrecting a new wave of the 80s synth rock sound made famous by bands like Depeche Mode, The Cure and Joy Division. They created a new sub-genre with their fresh take on a retro sound. It seems like there is a new band every year or two since that has followed their lead, including The Killers, The Bravery and Neon Trees. Their popular brooding sound seemed to sooth the crowd at the Thunderdome just fine. Fans danced and sang along as the band raced through a fifteen song set, ending with one of their biggest hits, “Slow Hands.” After the vociferous crowd demanded more, Interpol returned for a four song encore that seemed to finally satiate their adoring fans.

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