LCD Soundsystem - May 29th @ Roseland Theater
James Murphy belted out the words to "All My Friends," and in an amen of sorts, the brimming Roseland Theater helped him finish the couplet. "If you're worried about the weather," he sang as Portland joined, "then you've picked the wrong place to stay."
The sentiment was a bit ironic, of course, as the city yearns desperately for summer and an end to this prolonged and dreary spring. For two hours Saturday night, Murphy's baby, LCD Soundsystem broke the clouds. It was hot, sweaty, and carefree—a purging of self-centered, self-defeating machinations on aging, regret and cool, where the title of the new album, This Is Happening, becomes and ethos. (The same could be said of the song title "Dance Yrself Clean.")
Murphy's backing band is a titanic seven piece. Never has cyclical dance music sounded so crisp in person. Using real instruments and amplifiers rather than pre-recorded backing tracks created true separation and depth of field. Every single guitar, bass, synth, wood block, timbale, conga, and cymbal splash cut clearly through the mix (the band brought their own sound engineer and a studio's worth of vintage synthesizers). At times Murphy would make the subtlest adjustments to the tone on bandmate's amplifiers and even instruments.
The players are fitting for Murphy's subject matter—thirty-something ex-hipsters adorned with a few specks of grey hair. And my God they were disciplined, re-creating the particulars that make Murphy, an engineer and audiophile himself, salivate. Rub the pick sideways on the strings for a slightly scratchier attack. Hit the those two notes just so as the song fades away, just like it does on the record. Play one simple riff for seven minutes without flourish. While note-for-note recreations on stage often feel limp or lifeless, LCD Soundsystem swelled with extra life aside from the enhanced attack, tempo and volume.
In the studio, Murphy pieces all the tracks and instruments together one by one while playing most everything. And while the instruments on LCD Soundsystem records are all played live, they are recorded in such a close-mic'd and controlled environment as to make them sound synthesized (IE: drums sound like a drum machine). Live, the rush and swirl caused the band to really sink into the grooves—they were tightly played but never static. The music breathed and burned and was loud as all fucking hell.
At times the volume seemed to pain Murphy, who plugged his ears on numerous occasions with a searing grimace. But it never effected a workman-like two hour performance. He still stuck his head in the drum set, singing and alternating the vocal mic strategically to enhance snare snaps and cymbal crashes.
The set zoomed through all parts of the band's catalogue. The older tunes—the most rhythmic and least melodic with spoken vocals—reminded more of Talking Heads live than they do on record. The band dipped back to "I'm Losing My Edge," while adding a large swath of the new record with, "Drunk Girls," "All I Want," "Pow Pow," and "I Can Change," plus hits like "Someone Great" and the aforementioned "All My Friends." And while the audience singalong was loud for the line about the weather, it towered above during the coda. Everyone seemed to be shouting, "if I could see all my friends tonight!"
After a lengthy encore Murphy and co. closed the evening somewhat perplexingly with "New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down," a ballad that seemed to infer the all too common superiority complex New Yorkers carry around. We're in Portland. What do we care? As the somber tune came to an end, however, Murphy and keyboardist/vocalist Nancy Whang (also of the Juan MacLean) segued into the chorus of Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind." The immutable hook seemed to deflect from Murphy as the center of attention, which seemed to be exactly what he wanted. I wandered out into the open air, happily humming someone else's tune.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!