You know it’s a good show when you leave a venue and your hair is three times as large due to the humidity of the sweat evaporating off people’s dancing bodies. And this is even more impressive when the room isn’t a small club, but the cavernous environs of the Aragon Ballroom.
LCD Soundsystem has turned into a “band for their generation” even though leader James Murphy is far older than most of his fans. Sorry, the guy got kind of a late start and didn’t even discover dance music until he was starting to gray at the temples. But that works in the favor of his music, as he blends the soundtrack of Larry Levan’s run DJing New York’s Paradise Garage through the ’80s with his deep love of David Bowie and all things Krautrock. When the band initially disbanded in 2011, the news was met with the equivalent of a cultural wake, and mourning took the form of a farewell tour that worked as a celebration of the band’s influence.
(I could go into an entire aside here about how Murphy probably can’t stand that the mish-mash approach he took to LCD Soundsystem’s sound that was built on years of absolute nerd levels of crate-digging only to be replaced by offspring who could find stuff he searched so long for in a matter of seconds thank to YouTube, but that is “hey kid get off my lawn” territory, and after last night’s show I’m guessing he’s no longer really that annoyed by it.)
I’ve seen LCD Soundsystem many times over the years, from small clubs to massive outdoor shows, and while I have emotional favorites from the past, last night’s set was something new—the band has finally embraced being a Very Important But Fun Live Act™. Through the years the group’s setlist hasn’t changed all that much, with Murphy even admitting that the show they played took careful tinkering and adjustments to the chemistry that could throw the whole thing off. But on this “American Dream” tour, the band is taking a more fluid approach, mixing things up night to night with exciting results.
I took copious notes throughout the show (people in the balcony must’ve thought I was nuts) but looking over them I realize describing moments don’t do any justice to the experience as a whole. Sure, there were cute asides like Murphy making goofy faces at multi-instrumentalist Nancy Whang when the lights went down and he thought no one was looking, or grinning wildly and giving drummer Pat Mahoney the O.K. sign with an “I can’t believe we’re pulling this off” look, or even Murphy air-drumming at the side of the stage after exiting just before the band’s “pee break” (their enforced intermission to take a breath and not make fans make noise for an encore). But those are moments.
What I saw, and what makes LCD Soundsystem special, is the communal experience. They are the church of disco—all-inclusive, with impeccable taste when choosing the mix to keep the party going, and get friends to hug friends and strangers alike. When I reviewed American Dream I noted that album’s greatest strength was that it finally felt like a full album, and not just a collection of great musical ideas. And it’s just hitting me now that the band has done the same with their live set. It’s no longer a dance party populated by bangers, it’s a rollercoaster ride meant to make you feel happy the person next to you is alive to experience it along with you. LCD Soundsystem shows used to thrill with their highlights, but right now the band has figured out how to make every second a highlight. And that’s exhausting. And beautiful.
LCD Soundsystem plays the Aragon Ballroom again on November 7 and November 8.
Setlist for LCD Soundsystem at the Aragon Ballroom, November 6, 2017
I Can Change
Call The Police
You Wanted a Hit
Change Yr Mind
I Want Your Love
(Pee break a.k.a. “Spanish Flea” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass)
Yr City’s a Sucker
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends