So, that was pretty incredible. I guess we can all stop going to concerts now?
Quibble with how the tickets were distributed, but no matter how we, the amassed ass-shakers, found ourselves there, it’s not like MSG was full of blasé bankers ruining it for a handful of true fans. You couldn’t have asked for a crowd that was any more knowledgeable, enthusiastic, or committed to wringing the last drops of enjoyment out of LCD Soundsystem’s now-defunct live show than the folks filling the Garden on Saturday night. I’ve certainly never seen a crowd at Terminal 5, Mercury Lounge, or the Cake Shop elevate songs through ecstatic, collective force of will to quite these heights. We’re biased into thinking that a packed, sweaty little basement show is the be-all, end-all of live music enjoyment. But 20,000 people all (and I mean all) screaming the words to “All My Friends” in unison while gyrating maniacally up the stadium aisles into the cheap seats, only an hour into a three-and-a half-hour show, is something else entirely. Going in, I had half expected a funeral for the passing of an entire borough’s collective youth. But this was a celebration, on a massive, massive scale, and not just for James Murphy and his sprawling, extended band.
In spots, the well-rehearsed show felt like a victory lap for whole genres of music that’ve been excluded from mass culture for decades. The extended instrumentals of the second set (which had been performed all week long at the lead-up gigs) felt like hard-core disco’s biggest moment in 30 years. It was like that whole burning records on the baseball field thing never happened. The crowd went nuts for sexed-up horn blasts, extended percussion workouts, weirdo vocoder cameos. Murphy, who’s made a career out of putting his influences on unusually transparent display, continued to give bits of other people’s music prime real estate tonight, at his own going-away party. A triumphant version of Harry Nillson’s “Jump Into the Fire” was played second-to-last, with Hot Chip’s Al Doyle locked-in to that riff to the point of abject derangement. Before that, Alan Vega’s “Bye Bye Bayou” was fleshed out far beyond Suicide’s original minimalism, made into truly strange arena rock. The predictably misty-eyed closer, “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” even came via a detour through Angelo Badalamenti’s classic Twin Peaks theme. A crowd going totally mental for “I’m Losing My Edge” went even crazier as the song went off on a few-bar tangent of “Da Funk” (after the line about playing the track to the rock kids at CBGBs). These nods were incorporated in a way that felt fun and generous and right (not like cheap Girl Talk throwaways). When Arcade Fire casually popped out, just to scream a few back-up notes of “North America Scum” it felt like that generosity of spirit feeding right back in. Musicians on stage couldn’t help from hugging every few minutes during the final set’s stretch run. For a supposed fan base of jaded hipsters, the good vibes in that room were positively mammoth.
Thinking back on the sight of all those rippling people—most improbably committed to the black-and-white dress code, all dancing their heads off to music filled with such glaring signifiers—it seems a bit strange. Was this just the music nerd scenester version of a big insurance convention, members of the club belly laughing at in-jokes about 2007’s Salesman of the Year? I guess I’m still not entirely sure, but I choose to see it in a slightly brighter light.
James Murphy came on the scene as a ready-made elder statesman/dismissive older brother figure, bitching about the “Internet seekers” who hadn’t needed to go on such an epic journey of musical discovery as he did, through dank record stores, hunting after word-of-mouth curios. Kids newly out of college who had just spent a few years gorging on Napster, who could find out everything there was to know about any band with a few keystrokes, download entire catalogs, entire decades of music in one gulp. Despite, or maybe because of his gentle chiding that we weren’t doing it right, LCD Soundsystem quickly became our band. The band who’d already sifted through everything ahead of time, absorbed their lessons, definitively decided which canonical things were actually cool, and refused to sound any worse than their influences’ triumphs. Bowie and Eno in Berlin, The Stooges’ punk snarl, Mark E. Smith’s stuffy-headed bark, Suicide’s organ sounds, New York disco’s weird art period, Beatles’ melodies, the Talking Heads’ flirtations with funkiness, tastefully decadent house music, Detroit techno (GILL! SCOTT! HERON!). Murphy soon grew to delve more and more into what it felt like to move on with an adult life, heads still consumed with adolescent lists and preoccupations, still trying to escape anxiety on the dance floor, still cracking a joke or two to hide any creeping dread. The Internet continued to serve as both inexhaustible rabbit hole to get lost in, and support-group proof that there were in fact plenty of other people out there into the same weird shit, and Murphy continually made cerebral songs designed for physical effect, anthems for wasted neurotics just trying to connect.
As LCD Soundsystem wrapped up on top this weekend, slightly shy of a decade on from their start, armed with enough stellar material to just totally kill it for three and a half hours, it barely seems like there is such a thing as a mass-culture anymore. There’s just huddled corners of the underground with enough heft to float their records to number 1 at low tide. Enough of us to fill up a 20,000 seat arena now and again, for the right band. Enough of us to dance, and dance, and dance.
Dance Yrself Clean (with “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc intro)
I Can Change
Time To Get Away
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
Too Much Love
All My Friends
(with “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes snippet)
45:33 Part One
45:33 Part Two (w/ Reggie Watts)
Sound of Silver
45:33 Part Four
45:33 Part Five (w/ Shit Robot)
45:33 Part Six
Freak Out/Starry Eyes
Us v Them
North American Scum (w/ Arcade Fire)
Bye Bye Bayou (Alan Vega cover)
You Wanted A Hit
Yeah (Crass Version)
Losing My Edge (With “Da Funk” by Daft Punk snippet)
All I Want
Jump Into the Fire (Harry Nilsson Cover)
New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down (with “Twin Peaks Theme” by Angelo Badalamenti intro)