The Riviera Theater on Chicagoís far North Side looks like it was taken from the Underworld film set. Itís an old, dark, gothic theatre that has clearly seen its better days - the perfect venue to see and hear the brooding, emotive musical sylings of bands like Interpol and The Stills. While the once-pristine interior of the building now stands cracked and peeling, the old hallís acoustics showed no sign of age. The sound was as vibrant as it must have been 50 year ago when the now declining neighborhood was still booming with energy and excitement. The Stills were playing their first song as I entered the venue and echoes of ìLola Stars And Stripesî bounced around, breathing life into The Riv.
I had seen the band once before. Just a few weeks ago at a showcase at NYCís Sin-e, The Stills packed the intimate room and began the difficult job of releasing and supporting a much-talked-about debut album. Now, just weeks later, they were playing in front of a huge crowd in a city where they had never had a single gig. Over the course of their short, 45-minute set, The Stills played with the same passion and emotion they did that night in New York. Only this time, they werenít playing for a crowd of industry peeps there to see the next big thing. They were playing for a big room of Interpol fans, most of which had never heard more than one of their songs (if that), though the band showed no sign of intimidation or self-doubt.
There was a bit of on-stage banter, but for the most part the band let their music do the talking. ìLove And Deathî and ìChanges Are No Good,î two of the most memorable tracks on The Stills' forthcoming debut, Logic Will Break Your Heart, showed the crowd that the band was for real. Many a Chicago hipster undoubtedly left that show eager to know more about The Stills, and that was only the beginning.
As the lights went out, signaling the eminent arrival of Interpol, the Riv erupted in cheers. The stage was pitch black until two spotlights shown on Daniel Kessler strumming the intro to Turn On The Bright Lightsí opening track, ìUntitled.î The lighting would add to the experience throughout the night. In addition to the flying rigs, three small lights sat atop three large speaker stands surrounding the band. The strobe effect and color changes accented the bandís unique personalities and basically, just looked f-ing cool. Daniel and bassist Carlos Dengler strutted, slithered and marched their way across the large stage, while lead singer Paul Banks, was his typical, mild-mannered self. Paul's emotion came from within though, as the vocals rang out like they were specifically intended to be sung in that old, cavernous building.
Interpol ran through most of their debut album before the night was over, ending their set with the bad-ass up-tempo rock of ìRoland.î The crowd, who may have left feeling a little cheated without it, roared when the band returned to play their first single, ìPDA.î On that note, Interpol walked off stage, the house lights went on, and I was off to fight for a cab with 300 other people or stand in a line for the ìElî that wrapped around the block. I chose the former and after a while, was off to rest up for the following nightís gig - WILCO!