As the band had requested, nearly everyone arrived in black and white attire as well as a uniform sense of revelry. This may have been envisaged as LCD Soundsystem’s funeral, but it was a wild dance party soaked with sweat in lieu of beleaguered tears. Anyone present will attest that the evening wasn’t just a concert; it was a special testament of that extremely rare all-encompassing bigger than life celebration. During LCD’s nearly 4-hour set, a sold out Madison Square Garden was definitely the happiest place in NYC, maybe in the world.
LCD Soundsystem at Madison Square Garden was a unique, literal once in a lifetime event where 20,000 people gathered from all over the world to unite for a first and last. And no one held back.
Watching a televised version will not capture the essence of this experience. Name any other bands that have played to a sold out Madison Square Garden. Those bands probably have sold out many arenas multiple times thus catering to hundreds of thousands or millions of people. When this happens, there’s a vast differential between diehard fan and casual listener plus varied experiences. Besides, LCD isn’t a band that has lost legions of fans from getting worse (insert your former favorite band here) and trudging along. They’re bowing out while on top.
For five nights this past week, LCD walked on stage at precisely 9:10 pm and opened with “Dance Yrself Clean” and James Murphy rant-singing, “It’s the end of an era, it’s true. And you go, stop! Stop! Stop!” Saturday was just that, fans holding on for one last pause and partying because there was no tomorrow. Murphy later even quipped, “It’s like New Year’s, but like next year, we’re dead.”
Standing twenty feet from the stage at both Terminal 5 and Madison Square Garden, the sound is amazingly better at MSG (Insert T5 insult here). The general admission pit was a non-stop dance-a-thon as was the entire arena, but never as ridiculously annoying or cramped as the T5 shows, especially Thursday’s. Looking around and behind you, everyone was dancing in the aisles and it was both surreal and sensational. At moments, LCD made MSG feel as intimate as a high school gym. The camaraderie was a major factor too, strangers were friends as if this was a huge pep rally and you did know everyone. Maybe the majority of the pit had established camaraderie two months earlier when we stood in the January cold for over three hours at Mercury Lounge for these pit tickets.
The band was in the brightest of spirits with big smiles and dancing more than normal. Dapper in a tuxedo, Murphy would look around and soak it all in. They were enjoying their own farewell party, as they should. Murphy even danced in the back of the pit while his predecessors Liquid Liquid were opening the show.
Set-wise, LCD’s most unique shows this past week was the first Terminal 5 show on Monday and this final one. Basking through 27 songs, the only songs they didn’t play at MSG were from the Monday T5 show’s “Yr City’s a Sucker” and “Thrills.” But MSG got a one-time “Tired” segued with a cover of Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise” and a live debut/cover of Alan Vega’s “Bye Bye Bayou.”
At the Terminal 5 shows, I likened LCD’s light show to a spaceship landing and it was at MSG where everything otherworldly was fully confirmed. Their penchant for robots (Shit Robot in a makeshift spaceship), Nancy Whang’s metallic costume changes, chorus and horn section donned in DFA spacesuits and Juan MacLean in a futuristic control tower. Covered in confetti, my friend suggested a unicorn had exploded which is the only thing LCD didn’t pull off, well that and playing “Beat Connection” even once last week.
When they weren’t in space, special guests were the same from the Terminal 5 shows with the exception of Arcade Fire superfluously doing backing vocals on “North American Scum.” If the highly rumored Daft Punk cameo manifested, it would’ve eclipsed LCD’s only time in the spotlight and it was much better without them. Hot Chip/LCD multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle’s brief cover of Daft Punk “Da Funk” on “Losing My Edge” was just enough.
Things started getting real in the third and final set as the band and audience could feel the end approaching. The giant disco ball lowered for “Us v Them.” When the bright lights struck, it resembled more of a disco sun and the crowd erupts chanting, “the time has come, the time has come, the time has come today.” I’ll never forget all the hands reaching for the disco sun singing in unison, “Cloud, block out the sun/Over me, over me/And spoil, spoil all the fun/Won’t you please.” When the light beam turned off and the disco ball was lifted back into the dark, I wanted it all to stall for longer. I wanted to hear “45:33” again in its entirety, which sounded best at MSG than any other night.
Everyone around me was fully present. There weren’t hundreds of cameras and cell phones held in the air. Murphy has mentioned at several shows in the past to put them away and “be present” or “be here with us” and that was not necessary this time. It was clear that photos weren’t capturing the essence on stage. With only five songs left in the history of LCD Soundsystem, James was consoling Nancy and held her hands as she started to cry at the beginning of “Losing My Edge.” James would choke up at moments looking at his family to the side of the stage. At one point, sharing, “I hope it’s okay. I’m wearing my dad’s watch tonight.”
Fans were looking around in disbelief, denial, and teary eyes as the band closed with their ode of love and lament to New York City. “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” has never been more potent. White balloons drop from the ceiling and the disco ball is gone. An era may or may not have ended, but one of the greatest live bands has completed their course with an undeniably, epic evening.
LCD Soundsystem is playing five shows for its farewell tour from March 28 - April 2. Prefix contributor B.Q. Nguyen is attending all five shows and giving his take on each show.
Set List – April 2, 2011 (Night 5)
Dance Yrself Clean
I Can Change
Time to Get Away
Daft Punk is Playing at my House
Too Much Love
All My Friends
Tired/Yes (Yes cover “Heart of the Sunrise”)
You Can’t Hide (Shame on You) (w/ Reggie Watts)
Sound of Silver
Out in Space
Freak Out/Starry Eyes
Us v Them
North American Scum (w/ the Arcade Fire)
Bye Bye Bayou (Alan Vega cover)
You Wanted a Hit
Losing My Edge
All I Want
Jump into the Fire (Harry Nilsson cover)
New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
Night 1: “Thrills” & “Yr City’s a Sucker”
Night 2: “Too Much Love” & “North American Scum”
Night 3: “All I Want” & “Jump into the Fire” (Harry Nilsson cover)
Night 4: No new songs added. LCD played all songs mentioned above from Night 2 and 3
Night 5: “Tired/Heart of the Sunrise” (Yes cover) & “Bye Bye Bayou” (Alan Vega cover)