Julian Plenti’s stripey jumper looks like something his nan knitted last Christmas.His fresh face and boyish good looks are drawing wolf whistles every coupleof minutes. He glances up at the balcony before shooting his gaze across theroom and announces, quite seriously, “I’d like to dedicate this next song tomy mum.”
One song later a male member of the audience has managed to work his wayonstage and plant a kiss on his right cheek. “That’s my man,” he deadpans ashis guitarist leans over and plants a cheeky one as well. Shortlyafterwards, he sings the first chorus to the classic carol Let It Snow.
Is Plenti really the same Paul Banks of Interpol we’ve cometo know? In body yes of course, but in person seemingly not this evening. Noicy stares, dry scowls, Armani suits, dark atmospherics; just a bagful ontunes and smiles along the way. It actually suits him.
Backed by a full supporting band including a cellist, Plenti is a rareopportunity for Banks to return to his pre Interpol days as asinger-songwriter. Whilst Is…Skyscraper is a fairly underwhelming listen until it’s spun a good few spins, ithas some real gems which hit the spot tonight. The lounge ballad Madrid Songdrifts across the Scala in a moment of perfect serenity. Girl On theSporting News bluesy bar room feel weaves under Banks’ gentle baritonewhispers.
A blinding beam of white light goes off as a surprising rendition ofPixies‘ Into The White gets aired for one of the evening’s heaviermoments. The interchanging jams between cello, piano and guitar which fadein and out of the On The Esplanade and Skyscraper add a folk dimension tothe gig. It also makes you wonder why Interpol don’t use more of this intheir own repertoire, which at the worst of times gets a little formulaic.One suspects a few of the band wouldn’t be caught dead playing these songs. Or dressing down.
The Interpol album currently in the works may confine Julian Plenti tothe status of a pet project for now, but if solo projects by front men ofsuccessful bands is sign language for these were my ideas and they’rebetter or that old chestnut musical differences, Julian Plenticould indeed map how rosy life after Interpol could shape up for Paul Banks,with a smile or two for good measure.