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[live review] LCD Soundsystem @ Madison Square Garden

My near obsessive compulsion with Facebook paid off in a big way last Sunday night when I checked my phone before I went to bed -- sad, I know. I spotted this little gem of a blog post on LCD SOUNDSYSTEM's fanpage at 1:02 AM, announcing that they were planning a re-release of 1,500 tickets to their hella-sold-out Madison Square Garden farewell concert.

Immediately, I began plotting my plan for conquering Ticketmaster after being foiled by the conglomerate during my attempt at presale tickets on February 11, and again three days later during the general onsale. Definitely had nightmares prominently featuring the jumbled nonsense of Ticketmaster's captcha word recognition program that night.

To make a long and obviously pointed story shorter, I scored tickets last Monday. Section 420, which is probably the worst seats you can have for a concert at MSG, as they're actually behind the stage, somewhere in the vicinity of Messier's number 11 banner. But at least I paid face value, which was roughly $225 cheaper than the amount I was prepared to fork over to StubHub in exchange for admission.

I really wish I had an explanation as to why I was willing to shell out an entire week's pay to see this band play their final concert. A lot of thought went into what I could pitch in this space last week while ingesting some pretty heady articles dissecting the band's curt lifespan. A 20k word homage via Pitchfork, an analysis of the irony within their work, and even a blog post comparing James Murphy to fucking David Foster Wallace.

It's a difficult thing to consider: Why is your favorite band your favorite band? Kind of an awful and arbitrary question really. The best I could come up with is that James Murphy's intentions for this band was never to have people dedicate dissertation length essays to LCD. He's never taken himself that seriously, so why should we? I mean, his first single was essentially a dig at the cool kids and the first song on his debut album is about hosting a house party soundtracked by the same guys that soundtracked the new Tron.

It can basically be chalked up to him being a rather brilliant songwriter that bases his songwriting off of other peoples work, never his own self-important anecdotes. We've all probably read tales of him cribbing the music straight from others, but even his lyrics aren't all that original. Take "I Can Change" for example. I've probably listened to that song about 500 times since it's release last year and I never once considered that Murphy was singing the refrain to a woman in his life. I just assumed that he wanted to make an buttery pop ditty that you can shuffle your feet to, so he made one. Sort of like a tribute band, but where every song is it's own little tribute to such a specific blip (or culmination of blips) on the vast landscape of musical history that only those paying attention are truly certain to whom he's paying tribute.

Even on "Someone Great," far and away the most emotional charged work of their catalog, it was never quite clear if he's referencing something that actually happened to him, or if he's merely trying his hand at a song about substantial loss, as all great artists seemingly have at some point in their careers. When that tune was absolutely everywhere in 2007, people asked who the song was written about and he never owned up to writing the song about anyone in particular. The song is out there and it's far more effective with an open ending, being able to relate it to loss in your own life. He let his work speak for itself.

I'm not going to say much more on the subject, but if you read this and ever meet me at a bar around town, ask me about LCD. If you catch me at the right degree of sauced-ness, I'll talk your ear off about what those two songs meant to me at weird points in my own life, or how I think "All My Friends" is amongst the most beautiful songs ever written, and all sorts of other corny shit.

Also, they happened to be my favorite band to get drunk and dance around to at a time in my life when my two most cherished hobbies were getting drunk and dancing around like an idiot.

With all this being said, there was a lot of anticipation leading up to Saturday. And I was absolutely gleaming on the four hour ride down to New York, when I turned into the shadow of Madison Square Garden on the corner of 7th and 34th, when I picked up my ticket from will call, and when I stepped through the gates at MSG for the first time in my life. It was only when I was seated in section 75, pretending my tickets matched my current location and waiting for the band to take the stage, did it finally hit me: This was it.

The end is supposed to be melancholy, but the 9:15 start time didn't really give me much time to get down on myself. You try feeling sad during the drop of "Dance Yrself Clean". I've been been to concerts at comparably sized venues, but they've always been of the docile classic rock variety. Never a crowd of 15,000-ish music dweebs, e-tards, hipsters, and people who clearly could afford the steeply priced StubHub tickets, all decked out in black and white in accordance of the funeral theme, simultaneously losing their shit. Hands and voices as high as they'd go.

I was fortunate enough to catch LCD three times last year on their This Is Happening tour, so there was never really the feeling that I need to hear so-and-so song. I knew what to expect and took it all in. Even songs I never really gave two shits for ("Drunk Girls", "Sound of Silver") sounded not real, if only because it would ideally be the last time I'd ever hear them thanks to the almighty power of the skip button.

They ran through a number of heavy hitters right off the bat, complete with requisite awkward between song banter courtesy of Murphy, warning us that they might play some songs we've never heard, before launching into "Tired". We get it, you want to be obscure and indie and shit, but just because it was on the second disc of your debut album doesn't mean it's obscure. The internet exists. I'm nearly positive everyone in that room had heard that song at least once.

Next they took a 15-minute setbreak, presumably to chain smoke and collect their thoughts, before returning to the stage to perform their Nike-commissioned 45:33 mix in it's near entirety. Soon-to-blow standup comedian Reggie Watts and DFA cohorts Shit Robot and Juan Maclean lent a hand in keeping the momentum chugging while Murphy slinked around the stage, clearly taking the moment in during the mostly instrumental set.

At times, I could only look at him in awe. He doesn't possess any superstar attributes, especially when compared to those that generally grace that monumental stage. Like I said, he's awkward and I wouldn't have held it against him if he broke down in a fit of anxiety. But he kept his cool like only someone who wrote "Losing My Edge" could.

The third set was a breakneck blur. Arcade Fire sat in during "North American Scum". They sang back up and added some pretty cute dance moves. Probably the least conceited thing they've done in like five years. At one point, I thought I saw someone that resembled Aziz Ansari crowdsurf from the back of the floor all the way to the barrier at the front of the stage, but I was pretty delirious by that point, so I didn't say anything to the people around me. Turns out it was him. The set ended with "Movement" and "Yeah" and I could actually feel my vocal cords blistering.

He opened the second encore with "All I Want" featuring the lyrics "From now on, I'm someone different, cause it's no fun to be predictably lame," then covered Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire". Both moments very telling and very righteous. He then took the time to thank his family and show the members in attendance that he was wearing his father's watch. Probably the furthest glance we've ever gotten over his self-imposed emotional barrier. Cue the requisite "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" closer, drop the balloons, and scene.

It was only on Monday, when I got to rewatch the whole show on YouTube (since pulled due to copyright violation), while swaying back in my desk chair and mumbling the songs under my breath, did I realize that the show was nearly four hours long, not 40 minutes like it felt being there. Pitchfork live broadcasted the whole thing, so with them being the prudent purveyors of totally kewl multimedia that they are, I'd expect a DVD release with their logo stamped on the cover sometime in the near future. I've also read internet mumblings that Spike Jonze had a camera crew in attendance, so maybe even a tastier final product. A hipster version of The Last Waltz, if you will.

The only question that really remains is, will they be back? I'd say almost with complete assurance that the answer is no. Murphy's intentions for ending it are understandable. He's 40-years old. He has a spotless discography. He doesn't want to be 50, playing the "Drunk Girls" to 20-somethings. He has other ventures in place, thanks to his record label and his strong affection for coffee. Not many can say they went out with all of this -- at the mecca with the utmost respect of his fans, critics, contemporaries, and most importantly, his bandmates.

I'm going to post a setlist below, but there's a pretty good chance that if you've bothered to read this entire rambling, you've already seen it. I brought a camera to the show, but in my frenzied state, I failed to use it. Thanks to those that uploaded the video scattered throughout this post. 

LCD Soundsystem - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 04/02/11
Dance Yrself Clean
Drunk Girls
I Can Change
Time To Get Away
Get Innocuous!
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
Too Much Love (w/ Phil Mossman)
All My Friends
45:33 Part One
45:33 Part Two (w/ Reggie Watts)
Sound of Silver
45:33 Part Four (w/ Juan Maclean)
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)
Someone Great
Losing My Edge
All I Want
Jump Into The Fire (Harry Nilsson cover)
New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
| More


  • iNeed fanboy #1 said:

    FIRST! I <3 you!

    April 6, 2011 2:51 PM
  • Carolyn said:

    Love the post Michael! Happy to see the word "gem" making its way around the web! PS love your writing and your music referrals!

    April 6, 2011 5:02 PM

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