Stellar Interpol make up for festival's smaller grounds

REVIEW / CONCERT

NEON LIGHTS 2018

Fort Gate, Fort Canning Park/ Last Saturday


American indie veterans Interpol were the undeniable highlight of a rain-soaked Neon Lights festival at Fort Canning Park last Saturday.

The indie music and arts festival, which took a break last year, returned to Fort Canning Park from last Friday to yesterday, which was one day longer than the 2016 edition. The first edition was held in 2015.

It was a worthwhile wait for Interpol, who were playing in Singapore for the first time since they started making their mark in the early 2000s.

It was clear that the majority of the people were there to see the band, who took to the stage around half an hour after they were scheduled to appear and proceeded to play a blistering 70-minute set that traversed the breadth of their discography.

The sharply dressed band, fronted by the enigmatic, unsmiling Paul Banks, kicked off with early material such as Not Even Jail and Evil, and also delved into tracks off their latest release Marauder (2018), such as If You Really Love Nothing, Number 10 and The Rover.

There was no lull in the crowd-pleasing, 15-song setlist by the New Yorkers - a strobe light-and loud guitars-filled rock show which ended on a high with PDA and Slow Hands.

Earlier that night, the skies opened up to set the dreamy environment for the ambient pop sounds of American act Cigarettes After Sex. Couples huddled under umbrellas and kissed as the band played on valiantly through the downpour, with fitting tracks such as Apocalypse and Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby.

Other than headliners Interpol, the line-up did not feel as fleshed out as previous editions of the festival, which had featured big-name acts such as disco legends Chic, acclaimed experimental Icelandic band Sigur Ros and Glaswegian post-rockers Mogwai.

Instead, many of this year's acts felt recycled. One of this year's headliners, Malaysian singer Yuna, for instance, headlined the 2016 edition of the festival, while Cigarettes After Sex played a gig at Capitol Theatre late last year.

Another significant change this year was the scaled-down version of the festival that was initially spread out over the much larger grounds comprising both Fort Canning Green and Fort Gate.

That allowed attendees to roam between stages and experience interesting performance artists, experimental acts and interactive spaces - things that made Neon Lights stand out from other music festivals. Hence previous editions drew crowds of 15,000 over two days in 2016 and 10,000 over two days in 2015.

This year's edition, in the smaller and almost stuffier grounds - no thanks to the rainy weather - drew 2,000 attendees last Friday and a sold-out crowd of 3,500 on Saturday.


Correction note: This article has been amended to reflect the correct years in relation to the festival crowd numbers. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2018, with the headline 'Stellar Interpol make up for festival's smaller grounds'. Print Edition | Subscribe