Even with just two albums to their credit, the men in black of Interpol have honed a finely tuned live act. It goes something like this: They emerge dressed to the hilt in natty suits and/or ties, a flood of lights bathes the stage in sinister reds and cobalt blues as the band plays the first track from its new album, and inevitably someone brandishes a cigarette, takes impossibly long drags from it, and then blows feathered streams of smoke that linger through the opening song.
If you were to look around, you'd also notice throngs of 20-something fans who mouth every lyric and grin through the entire show, even though Interpol's glum rock odes aren't exactly a trip to the candy store.
The crowd and routine may have been the same as at last year's show at Avalon, but on the band's Monday night return, Interpol could draw from a wider repertoire. On the opening night of a new tour, the band debuted a whole new crop of songs from its latest album, "Antics."
Even before the show started, the drama ran high outside Avalon. One man told a sob story about having driven in from Connecticut and not having heard that the show was sold out. Farther down the street, a young woman explained to other empty-handed fans that she was waiting to buy tickets from someone coming in from New York, even though the asking price had been jacked up to a hefty $100 for two. In other words, this was definitely a crowd that wanted to be here.
Singer/guitarist Paul Banks, peering out through strands of limp, shoulder-length hair tucked under a fedora, opened with "Next Exit," offering a carbon copy of the album version. As usual, it was hard not to watch Carlos Dengler, who played his low-slung bass as though he were in love with it. He was regal in his white dress shirt and tie, which looked about 3 inches too short, and, oddly, he sported an empty holster. (Oh, the whims and decadence of a New York rock star.)
Spontaneity is not Interpol's strong suit, but crafting perfectly linear rock songs is. The languorous "NYC," from the band's debut, "Turn on the Bright Lights," was Interpol at its finest: psychobabble lyrics about the subway being "a porno" and angular guitars suited for a sleepy Sunday morning. "Hands Away" reminded us that Interpol has mastered the hypnotic beauty of booming drums, atmospheric keyboards, and lean guitar and bass lines -- all played over and over until you're sure your chest will explode.
The Secret Machines opened with massive walls of indiscriminate art-noise. Cast in the stage's pale-blue hues against a handful of harsh spotlights, the trio looked as if it was floating along in an aquarium, and it played loud and hard enough to crack it wide open.