Interpol | Spoon w/ Seratones; Lights, Camera, Factions Tour: KEMBA Live!; Columbus, OH; Tuesday, August 30, 2022
Tuesday evening’s outdoor concert was not only a great way to end the summer concert season, but it was a case study in two very different approaches to live music performance from two very different bands. The co-headline bill started off with Spoon, originally from Austin, TX, led by vocalist and front-man Britt Daniel, who has embraced the traditional songwriting model with influences going back to classic rock and pop. Interpol came out of the NYC post-punk scene, developing their sound around the sonic interactions of bass, drums, and guitars as a propulsive unit.
Playing first, Daniel and his Spoon mates revealed their true colors right out of the gate, opening with “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” which not only kicked things off with an energetic, good feeling rock groove, but repeatedly celebrating the idea that “when you believe, they call it rock & roll.” And if that title didn’t throw you, they kept that fun feeling going with “Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine,” which was lighter than the title leads you to believe, with Daniel emphasizing the “Oh yeah!” at the end of the verses.
Of course, a great front-man and vocalist like Daniel would look and sound foolish with the substantial backing of a great band, and Spoon is that. Drummer Jim Eno, the band’s other original member, started kicking out the punchy rhythm of “Got Nuffin,” followed quickly by guitarist Gerardo Larios, whose herkie jerky moves at the edge of the stage charged up the fans down front. Larios dove right into the opening chords of “Do You,” joined on harmonies by Alex Fischel on keyboards and bassist Ben Trokan, giving the hooky pop chorus plenty of punch. Both Larios and Fischel move back and forth from guitar and keyboards, depending on what a song requires, and both were on guitar with Daniel for the dynamic delivery of “The Fitted Shirt,” Larios still manifesting manic movements whether beating out the song’s rhythm or grinding out a solo. Both moved back on keys for “The Way We Get By,” another great pop song with a light funk and R&B feel, which led into “My Mathematical Friend” which built around the driving rhythm section of Eno and Trokan. Larios played a spooky synth solo, and Daniel added a bit of lead guitar as the song reached its climax, and that final word, “stop!”
Daniel moved to an acoustic guitar for the verses of “The Underdog,” with Larios again going a bit crazy on the keys. “My Babe,” a fun pop song and the latest single from the band’s 2022 release Lucifer on the Sofa, built from the synth intro and piano from Larios and Daniel’s acoustic rhythm, serving up the song’s hooky chorus, rocking a bit harder than the album version, with a guitar solo from Fischel. Daniel led into “I Summon You,” playing the song’s swinging acoustic rhythm, encouraging the crowd to clap along in an effort the help lift the “weight of the world.” Returning to the band’s trademark high energy rock & roll, they returned to electrics for the driving punch of “Jonathon Fisk.”
Finally getting around the title track of their newest album, they opened the song with Larios on piano, Daniel singing while the rest of the band took a brief break, only to return a couple verses in to add big bass notes as drums, guitars and bass began to build as they segued into “Isolation,” a cover of John Lennon’s solo composition, an appropriate choice given Lucifer on the Sofa’s pandemic shut-down vibe.
Staying with the newer material, “The Hardest Cut” cut a wide swath with its big guitar swagger, bordering on a metal riff, with a smoking guitar solo from Fischel. But Spoon can deliver a bold rock groove with strong R&B flavor without relying on guitars, as Larios and Fischel returned to their keyboards for “Inside Out,” the two trading synthesizer solo lines back and forth at the song’s tale end, with Daniel leading the audience in clapping along before leaving the stage briefly. The bass and drums kicked into the deep groove of “I Turn My Camera On,” with Eno digging into a fun drum solo break, cued by the lyric “hit me like a tom,” adding to the song’s strong dance vibe.
They followed that up with the power pop of “Don’t You Evah,” a song written by the NYC band The Natural History,” that Spoon had covered on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, to which Larios added a squealing, effect driven guitar solo. The followed the fast, guitar riff driven “Wild,” another from the newest album, that rocked hard and steady, Daniel egging on the audience. Daniel has a great rock voice and with his natural good looks, fitted white shirt, and engaging presence interacted freely with fans, applauding someone down front who was waving Spoon’s latest vinyl album. Thanking the crowd for coming out, the vocalists praised Columbus as “one of the great rock cities in the world,” while Eno snapped his snare for the intro for the set closing “Rent I Pay,” with it’s Stone’s vibe energy, Fischel trading back and forth from Hammond organ sounds to crunchy guitar lead riffs. As Spoon played the sun had set in the west, but even without a spotlight, the stage lighting was bright and the band personally engaging as they waved and left for the night.
Interpol, coming out of the NYC scene and influenced largely by European post-punk bands like Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen, take a very different approach than the poppier, songwriting focus of Spoon. Playing their entire set backlit, thus predominately in shadows, the five-person live band leans toward heavier, darker tones. Opening with the quieter keyboard opening of “Toni,” the first track from their 2022 release, The Other Side of Make-Believe, the music builds around the throbbing basslines played by touring bassist Brad Truax, and auxiliary keyboard player Brandon Curtis. Reaching back to their 2004 album, Antics, the bass intro to “Evil,” drew applause from fans, who joined singer and rhythm guitarist Paul Banks in singing the song’s catchy chorus. Much of the set followed this simple formula, “Fables” and “Narc” both opening with a guitar or bass intro, the band settling into the songs’ steady groove, often punctuated artfully by drummer Sam Fogarino, while guitarist Daniel Kessler and Curtis on keys bring texture and color as the propulsive beat builds toward a cathartic vocal chorus. On “Narc” there’s a modified reggae rhythmic feel, while on “Obstacle 1” there’s a bolder rock beat, with a room for a punchy drum break.
As lead vocalist, Banks sounds most comfortable on the louder, sing-songy melodies of the song’s choruses, but was pitchy and tentative in the quieter sections of “Pioneer of the Falls” with its brittle, tense rhythms and “Mr. Credit,” another from the new album. Things worked to the band’s benefit playing more familiar songs, like “All the Rage Back Home,” from 2014’s El Pintor, which thrives around its punk energy, fast, kicking rhythm that earned a strong chant along response from the crowd, and the steady, sturdy throb of “Rest My Chemistry. Kessler played the opening eight notes repetitively to kick off the trance-like “The Rover,” while Banks’ struggled with the vocals in the newer “Gran Hotel,” which ended with brief guitar solos. After “The New,” Interpol closed their 75-minute set with two more familiar songs from “Antic,” the throbbing clap-along “Not Even Jail,” and the bold, fast “Slow Hands,” which had long time fans singing and chanting along.
While the original advertised opener for the “Lights, Camera, Factions” tour was the now broken up Goon Sax from Australia, and then NYC duo Water from Your Eyes, a band from the nightclub on the corner, Seratones actually filled in at the last minute. While female singer AJ Haynes won extra credit for opening with a cover of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” which fit the late afternoon sun of this end of summer show, well, perfectly. Otherwise, she and another member of the band played unrecognizable folk rock, quoted some entertaining feminist poetry and did her best to entertain a crowd who was killing time waiting for the show’s main attractions.