photo by Chris Searles
INTERPOL, BLOC PARTY, DUST
THE RIVERSTAGE, BRISBANE
WEDNESDAY, 22 NOVEMBER 2023
LET'S CALL A SPADE A SPADE — It's bloody miserable in Brisbane tonight, making it something of a mission to even leave the house with the downpour outside. Once initiated, the mission becomes even harder, as navigating peak hour in the city center to get to the Riverstage on-time is something that seems to be lacking common sense when it comes to the larger organising of events here. We love you, Riverstage, really, we understand and are totally sympathetic to your pesky curfews and sound restrictions, but opening the gates in the city during peak hour is counter intuitive. Regardless and perhaps oblivious to the situation outside, Newcastle's latest and finest purveyors of post-punk— Dust—milk every ounce of opportunity out of their 6 pm (!!!) timeslot and respond brilliantly to a chance playing a big stage. Without overassuming, their blend of jagged rock seems to draw from the UK post-punk scene, which we've all responded to of late and one that still feels underrated down here—bands like Fontaines D.C., Idles, Shame, and Yard Act, et al—you know the ones. However, there is also a distinct ownership or identity taking shape within these lads, with the addition of ambient electronics that subtly complement the group's frenetic aggression. It's utterly thrilling to witness, and one gets the sense that by this time next year, Dust will be headlining shows of this size under their own esteem. It won't take long.
Diving into the rhythmic realm of this trans-Atlantic, double-bill extravaganza featuring alternating headliners, one can't help but sense the unique synergy between dominant lead singers and sonics-sculpting guitarists. Both bands, grounded in the late '90s, draw inspiration from the UK's post-punk scene, where the marriage of rhythm and intensity birthed a new wave of dance music—darker, harder, and more tense, prioritizing controlled release over uninhibited abandon.
Bloc Party initiates the sonic journey tonight to what feels like a quiet crowd. Their introduction gradually builds into 'So Here We Are', serving as something of a prelude to the night's unfolding narrative. For their last visit, they played their classic 2005 debut — Silent Alarm — back to front, a tough act to follow given the sheer classic nature of the album. Tonight, their lifting from return-to-form latest album, Alpha Games, and the rest of their discography to varying success. They navigate precisely through diverse tempos, seamlessly sliding into 'Sex Magik' and moving it seamlessly into the explosive 'Hunting For Witches'. It's at this point, drummer Louise Bartle begins to steal the show, claiming the mantle the former Matt Tong created on their first two albums, becoming the drummer's drummer. Paul Kelly's 'Dumb Things' provides the intro for 'Song For Clay' and the ever-enduring 'Banquet' followed by 'Traps' serves an early highlight, giving the aforementioned Bartle enough room to furiously flex even further. Her chops are seriously something. Kele Okereke is the consummate, nonchalant frontman, playfully calling us "Brisneyland" and expressing earnest gratitude for this tour while Russell Lissack, the only other founding member, strikes his familiar pose, grinning in all the right places and providing some deeply familiar licks on the right songs. And the right songs, therein lies the solution to something of an otherwise patchy set - the band know exactly what these songs are as they're all stacked back to back for the final stretch. 'She's Hearing Voices', 'The Prayer', 'Helicopter', 'Flux', 'This Modern Love' and the closing 'Ratchet' take absolutely no prisoners, outlining why recent material might struggle -- these are quite simply second to none, arguably the greatest of their time. They are played with such fury, that there's no way Interpol could step up to this. Or could they?
Interpol, with a two-year origin head start over Bloc Party, demonstrate something more of a professional demeanour more reflective of their New York home, in contrast to the scrappy punk streets of London. Nothing wrong there really. They're bathed in non-light as the guitar staccato for 'Untitled' rings out across the audience, beginning their set subtly in the same manner they did with their finest album, Turn On The Bright Lights. 'C'mere' quickly follows, permitting Paul Banks, in a classic black suit and sunglasses no less, to properly extend his familiar baritone to full effect. Chilly tones abound, the band toy with tempo and mood, the darkness of 'Into The Night' and 'Roland' give way to the somewhat lighter 'Obstacle 1' or 'Rest My Chemistry'. Like Bloc Party, Interpol save a killer stretch for last, taking in 'Toni', 'Evil', 'NYC', 'PDA', and naturally, 'Slow Hands'.
As 8,000 or so early noughties indie music lovers head back out into the city, the rain may have actually held off, but the two bands' differences are stark. We're left comparing the two, a natural but bewildering human reaction when options are presented, yet neither should answer to the other really, they may be of similar circa and inevitably co-exist comfortably in our same playlists, but no two bands should really pitted opposite. What they do achieve tonight is bringing together indie music fans of different varieties to the one table - if even one walked away loving the other band, than mission accomplished, right?