LCD Soundsystem Verizon Wireless Theater October 8, 2010
With Papa Rocks Off watching The National and Big Brother Rocks Off in Austin enjoying Day 1 of the 2010 Austin City Limits Festival, the introverted, nerdy member of the Aftermath team ventured out of our cave to watch LCD Soundsystem play Verizon Wireless Theater. Admittedly, we arrived a bit too late to partake of Sleigh Bells - our photographer compared them to a decent, poppier, though less intense version of Crystal Castles, with fewer blinding strobe lights - but in plenty of time to catch what we really wanted to hear.
And after a jaw-dropping, eardrum-rattling performance that lasted nearly two hours, we left at 11 p.m. convinced that we want to be as cool as James Murphy when we're 40 years old.
Fronting a superb ensemble cast of six musicians, most of whom rotated between various guitars, basses, synthesizers and assorted noisemakers for the entire 14-song set, Murphy came across as a pristine example of what a postmodern frontman can and should be. A bemused, world-weary smile sat upon his face at all times, conveying to the crowd that, while he loves being here and loves playing this music for everyone, he's still not quite sure that he's the man for the job.
Though exhaustively schooled in rock history, Murphy did not call to mind the same sort of traditional stage presence evoked by the Jaggers, Tylers, Bowies and/or Morrisseys of the world. Instead, he stood starkly in the middle of the stage, singing at the top of his lungs and giving his songs everything he has - sure, he knew he was performing, but he could easily have been hanging out with his friends and just having a good time.
The night started off with "Dance Yrself Clean," the opening track from this year's This Is Happening, and immediately flowed into "Drunk Girls," the album's lead single and over-the-top party anthem. From there, the music ebbed, swam, flowed, glowered, and swaggered through LCD's three records, reaching a delirious fever pitch halfway through, when the propulsive drumming and syncopated keyboard rhythms of "All My Friends" rang out of the speakers.
Other set highlights included the chants and green lights of "Yeah," which began the encore - the crowd even intoned a properly loud and in-time cadence of "L-C-D" to beckon the band back onstage - and "Losing My Edge," during which Murphy chronicles the last 40 years of rock history as an extended metaphor for the scene's (and humanity's) compulsive need for incessant change as a meager attempt to stave off the march of time.
Yet, despite his everyman, "I'm-not-a-rock-star" persona, Murphy commanded the attention of the crowd with relative ease. There was very little crowd chatter to be heard once the music began - not only did the volume effectively drown out such nonsense, but the band's combination of sexy disco grooves, icy post-punk riffs, sultry glam hooks and bowel-rumbling industrial noise kept everyone dancing, bouncing, shaking and shimmying all night long.
Maybe it's because we've just finished reading Rip It Up And Start Again, but Aftermath couldn't help but think that many of the important genre-bending and -blending acts from 1978-'84 would be rather proud of what Murphy, Pat Mahoney (the metronome with soul who served as Murphy's outstanding drummer) and friends created Friday.
The music was loud, fun, upbeat, the right mix of edgy and danceable, while the lyrics were an engaging, realistic mix of somber reflections upon growing up and sarcastic, sardonic ruminations on how becoming mature is a boring way to go through life. Murphy is kind of like that grumpy old man who bellows at kids to keep off his porch, but the kids still like him because he's a great storyteller who doesn't try to shelter them from the ills and perils of reality.
Whatever. Aftermath is sure that we're the only person who came away from Verizon wrestling with such philosophical minutiae. Everyone else left the venue hoarse from singing along, nearly deaf from the decibel levels and high on endorphins from dancing incessantly.
LCD Soundsystem came to Houston, saw the willingness of the crowd to get into the set, and then conquered it with aplomb. This was a fantastic night of music.
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Personal Bias: Sound Of Silver, the band's 2007 album, was one of our Top 10 Records of the '00s.
The Crowd: a motley mix of hipsters, club kids, single 25- to 35-year-olds and music nerds who chose this show over The National or ACL (mostly because they wanted to dance the night away).
Overheard In The Crowd: We couldn't hear much besides the music, and we didn't want to get up in anyone's business just to hear what they might have been saying while a song was playing.
Random Notebook Dump: Dear Dirty Dancing Couple, we appreciate your enthusiasm. Keep enjoying yourselves throughout the night, and don't forget about protection later.