Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 1:36 pm | Fair 65º


Paul Mann: Interpol Storms The Thunderdome at UCSB

Fans pack the arena as the band's U.S. tour stops in Santa Barbara

Interpol made a stop in Santa Barbara as part of its U.S. tour and played at UCSB last Friday. The Thunderdome, which seats 6,000 fans for basketball games, rarely has concerts. But when it does, 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 such as 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 students.

The 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 play drums, the identical twins met guitarist Benjamin Curtis 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.

Deheza’s haunting voice, sometimes reminiscent of Bjork, is molded into a trancelike sound with Curtis applying multiple layering of electronic sound and guitar. Unfortunately, the old harmonies Dehaza would exchange with her twin sister were missing, as Claudia has left the band, replaced by drummer Zachary Saginaw. Fans of the TV network [adult swim] may recognize the band’s music as part of the regular soundtrack.

By the time Interpol appeared for their headline set, The Thunderdome was packed with about 5,000 eager young fans, pressed mostly around the front of the stage. The band immediately launched into a steady string of instantly recognizable hit songs.

The band of rockers included two new faces for the current tour. Veteran indie rockers David Pajo and Brandon Curtis took over the duties of bass and keyboard playing, respectively. The instantly recognizable voice of original band 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 1980s synth sound made famous by bands such as 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 bands such as The Killers, The Bravery and Neon Trees.

The popular brooding sound seemed to suit the crowd at The Thunderdome just fine. Fans danced and sang along as the band raced through a set of 15 songs, ending with one of their biggest hits, “Slow Hands.” After a vociferous crowd demanded more, the band returned for a four-song encore that seemed to finally satiate their adoring young fans.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributor. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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