Sunday, December 2, 2012

Paul Banks of Interpol concert review: Santa Ana, Calif.

photo by Helena Christensen
A version of my review originally appeared at

Paul Banks’ new album Banks depicts a gray and cloudy cityscape on the cover. The rainy weather before Friday night’s sold out Constellation Room show proved a perfect match.
Somehow, it seemed strange to watch the Interpol front man in the smaller Observatory space: last time I saw him perform with that group was on the considerably larger main stage at Coachella 2011. So this evening was a rare treat.
Although the atmospheric Banks material isn’t a huge departure from Interpol’s dark post-punk, there are subtle differences. Some tracks feature sampled dialogue, hints of radiance, complex guitar work and lyrics that are more personal than his usual stream of consciousness approach.
Longtime fans will be interested in a deluxe 10th Anniversary edition of Interpol’s classic first CD, Turn on the Bright Lights, out Dec. 11 via Matador Records will ample bonus material (B-sides, demos, John Peel sessions) and DVD (music videos, live clips from LA and NYC). Singer/guitarist Banks, a longtime New York City resident, was recently among the few entertainers who braved difficult conditions to appear on “Late Night with David Letterman” immediately following Hurricane Sandy.  
In Santa Ana, the mesmerizing 70-minute set comprised nearly all of the solid Banks effort and a major chunk of his equally engaging, official 2009 solo debut, Julian Plenty is…Skyscraper.
A few concertgoers loudly professed their admiration and shouted song titles. Paul Banks mostly sang with eyes shut and barely acknowledged them, but did look pleased when one guy yelled something about Brooklyn.
“Skyscraper” kicked off the proceedings with a long instrumental buildup and a needling riff from lead guitarist Damien Paris. Banks’ steely vocals were swathed in reverb on “I’ll Sue You”; his angular playing juxtaposed with Paris’ pummeled style.
Despite a dense sound mix, the melodic “Young Again” - a song about leaving an adolescent vision of life behind that dates back to 2006 – proved an early highlight. Equally blissful were the gilded guitar effects and swelling synth during instrumental “Lisbon” and “Summertime is Coming,” which brought to mind 1990s UK space rock trio Kitchens of Distinction.   
With a gorgeously picked guitar pattern and cavernous drums, “Arise, Awake” had a meditative quality. Bassist/keyboardist/backing vocalist Brandon Curtis was definitely the band’s secret weapon, frequently providing various sounds within the same song. Meanwhile, chiming confessional “Over My Shoulder” has all the makings of an alt-radio hit. Banks closed the concert with the intense, claustrophobic “Paid for That,” where frustration-filled lyrics name check his teenage influence Folk Implosion.

The Neighbourhood (which returns to headline Constellation Room Dec. 11 and 18, $5) did a promising half hour set of songs from its I’m Sorry EP. The young Thousand Oaks indie rock quintet sometimes recalled a more pop-minded Kasabian. Among the standouts: a laid back, moody “Baby Came Home,” luxurious “Afraid” and crashing drum break on “What Do You Want From Me?” 
Both acts head to the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood on Wed., Dec. 5. Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert are $22.50, plus fees. 
Paul Banks, Constellation Room at Observatory, Santa Ana, Nov. 30, 2012
Setlist: Skyscraper/Fun That We Have/I’ll Sue You/Only If You Run/Young Again/Fly as You Might/No Chance Survival/Arise, Awake/Over My Shoulder/Lisbon/No Mistakes/The Base/Summertime is Coming/Games for Days
Encore: On the Esplanade/Paid for That

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