It’s hard to believe that the New York indie boom of the early 2000s already feels like classic rock. But, well, we’re as far away from 2001 as the mid-’80s were from the Summer of Love.
We have oral histories, reissues and reunions aplenty documenting a time when the Lower East Side wasn’t just a never-ending grid of condos and bank branches. One when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, the Strokes and Interpol made the most exciting rock music since the grunge era.
On Saturday, at the newly renovated Los Angeles State Historic Park, Interpol became the first band to explicitly revisit that era with a front-to-back, full-album live set of the band’s moody and nervy 2002 album “Turn on the Bright Lights.” The record was a near-flawless vision at the time — retro enough in its Joy Division references, modern enough in its post-9/11 malaise — and it made Interpol an instant superstar. The group has had ups and down since — an underrated second LP, a major-label brass-ring grab and a late-career return to its indie brooding.
But Saturday’s show was an eerie, emotional return to a time when New York was reeling but its bands were better than they had been since the Ramones.
As an album, “Bright Lights” always held up beyond the mythology of that era. “PDA,” “NYC,” “Obstacle 1” — these are perfect, anxious, melancholy rock songs that haven’t lost their power in the last 15 years. But to hear the whole record at once was a bracing reminder of how complete and powerful Interpol’s aesthetic was at the time.
Black suits, impressionist lyrics, lockstep playing that made precision its own instrument. Few bands are such obvious stars right out of the gate, or could find a whole new angle on New York loneliness and possibility. The Strokes were first, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs louder, LCD Soundsystem funnier and the Rapture more club-ready. But no one hit it out of the park the first time like Interpol.
Music, more than anything, has the capacity to vault you back to a specific time and place in your life. For anyone who spent night after night with “Bright Lights” as company through 2002’s existential malaise, Saturday’s show lent new credence to the idea of the full-album anniversary tour.
The back half of Interpol’s set ably covered the rest of the group’s catalog — the witty singles from “Antics,” the L.A.-apropos radio hit “The Heinrich Maneuver” (with its barbed greeting “How are things on the West Coast…”) and the late-career highlight “All the Rage Back Home.”
But, of course, as tumultuous and unnerving as much of American life is right now, its probably no coincidence that fans are eager to return to the great albums from the last time life here felt so uncertain.
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