It was only back in the hazy, distant days of 2007 that LCD Soundsystem were the by-word for electro-dance-meets-indie-rock. Singer/songwriter James Murphy literally (if jokingly) took credit for "being the first one to play Daft Punk for the rock kids" in "Losing My Edge" from their 2005 self-titled debut, and it was with that record’s "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" that LCD broke into the collective consciousness. Yet some time not long after wrapping up a tour with Arcade Fire at New York’s Randall’s Island in late 2007 (QRO live review), LCD made like Arcade and seemingly disappeared. Murphy focused his full attention on his label, DFA, and other than his DJ sets with drummer Pat Mahomey as Special Disco Version, there were no lights on on the LCD. Since then, electro-dance has become firmly a part of the indie-rock scene, with all the rock kids playing Daft Punk – so can LCD Soundsystem, after a three-year break. return to Their House? Yes, yes the band could, at New York’s Webster Hall on Monday, April 12th.
Before ‘officially’ returning at southern California’s Coachella on April 16th (QRO Festival Guide), the New York-based band late-announced two New York shows, first for Thursday, April 8th at Music Hall in Williamsburg (QRO concert listing), then for Monday at Webster Hall. Murphy opened the Webster show by admitting he had been quite drunk at the Music Hall gig, but reiterated his promise to only play a few new songs off their upcoming This Is Happening. It was not only a refreshingly different from all the artiste bands who focus only on their new stuff, even if it’s not out yet, but also after a three-year hiatus, fans were desperate for LCD Soundsystem and 2007 follow-up, Sound of Silver (QRO review) – and LCD delivered.
However, the band still started with a new song, "Pow Pow", a solid dance-rock thumper, but one that needs more familiarity before it becomes great – possibly why it was first on the set list, so as not to detract from the party that would really only start to boil with the following "Yr City’s a Sucker", and was in full-heat with the subsequent "Us v Them". The three-year break, plus LCD Soundsystem’s tendency to make many singles, means that there are a surprising number of ‘hits’ for only two records worth of released material. And songs like "Us" are taken to a whole new level live, with the ecstatic crowd rockin’ as ‘Us’ – so much so that one could feel the floor of upstairs venue Webster (QRO venue review) seriously shake.
One new song that doesn’t need familiarity to be excellent live is upcoming single "Drunk Girls" – but how could a up-party anthem with a name like that not be wild, first time heard? And Murphy cuts an engaging frontman, just as happy as the crowd is, making his sometimes talk-singing like on "Drunk" or the following "Losing My Edge" like he’s talking to you. In between, Murphy did literally talk to the crowd, begging them not to leak This Is Happening – "Please let us release it when we want to release it. It’s not about the money – we know we’re not going to make any money off of it – just share it for free when it’s supposed to come out…" – even getting on his knees to plead with the audience. The more electronic the band, the more electronic their fans, and thus the more likely that everything they’ve ever done & will do is out there on the internet…
Songs like "Us v Them" and "Drunk Girls" are natural, memorable hooks for LCD Soundsystem, but they’ve also got pieces that can do so much more. Case in point: back-to-back "All My Friends" and new "I Can Change". Silver‘s "Friends" has the ‘us-making’ quality of "Us", but is also a pressing, evocative anthem that can touch each individual soul, as well as that of the crowd as a whole. "I Can Change" might be the least-talked about Happening track, higher synth-y and slower (for them), but looks to be another where the band exceeds the group party for personal effect.
LCD Soundsystem playing the new "I Can Change" live at Webster Hall in New York, NY on April 12th, 2010:
Between "Friends" & "Change", LCD Soundsystem had to stop the show to switch/fix a bunch of equipment (another issue for electronic acts…), with Murphy joking about how stupid they (the band) were for not using the equipment they recorded Happening on, but making a clone of it for their live show (and telling the crowd to "talk amongst themselves" like he got veklempt while hosting Coffee Talk – but didn’t provide a topic, like "The Holy Roman Empire is neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire…"). Murphy’s self-deprecating humor is a serious boon to the band, as it keeps LCD from seeming like an egotistical dance-god on high – yet another issue for electronic acts, a serious one. Indeed, the band as a whole has a kind of geeky appearance (especially new members Gavin Rossum & David Scott Stone), and thus was able to draw a crowd that ranged from the usual bridge-and-tunnel mooks & their girlfriends that often populate electro-dance crowds, through in-the-know hipsters (the late notice favored the latter group over the former, despite it being dance-friendly Webster, not hipster-friendly Music Hall in Williamsburg – QRO venue review), to ecstatic girls and their boyfriends and even folks as geeky-looking as those on stage.
"Change" was the last new song of the night (at only about the mid-way point), and LCD Soundsystem spent the rest of the evening with your favorites. The bass on "Tribulations" would have shook Webster even if the crowd wasn’t already, "Movement" a speedy stomp, and there’s not much more that can be said about "Yeah" than "Yeah!" LCD went off stage for their encore break after that LCD three-peat, but you knew they were going to return, because they hadn’t played the two songs you knew they had to. But before those came Silver‘s "Someone Great", another piece that managed to combine epic anthem and personal touch.
LCD Soundsystem playing "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" live at Webster Hall in New York, NY on April 12th, 2010:
Still, everyone had been waiting for those final two: "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" and "New York, I Love You". Still their biggest hit, only in NYC would "Daft" not be the natural closer, and it was great to see LCD Soundsystem play it with as much fervor as they did back when this all started in their house. And "New York" was lifted from its piano man recorded delivery to everyone’s anthem for the city (take that, Frank Sinatra & Jay-Z!…).
While the band didn’t play their great anthem for everyone else, Silver‘s "North American Scum" (probably fills the "New York" slot on the non-New York set lists…), or LCD‘s "Disco Infiltrator", it’s pretty impressive that a band with only two albums could disappear for three years, come back, play new stuff, not play every song you wanted to hear, and one still couldn’t find fault in their epic and excellent show. LCD Soundsystem are back, and most certainly haven’t Lost their Edge.