I’m not really sure why I bought tickets to both nights of LCD Soundsystem‘s two-night stint at Bowery Ballroom. It was late January, not a lot of shows were happening at the time, I think maybe I’d just gotten paid… or maybe I was deep into enjoying the leak of their excellent Sounds of Silver. Plus, I’d seen them at Bowery in 2005 and knew they had the chops to back up the beats on the album. Anyway I went crazy and bought a bunch of tickets. Four for the first night, two for the second.
With the weekend of shows behind me, I have no regrets. LCD Soundsystem are perhaps the best live dance music band around, though Soulwax are hot on their heels. James Murphy comes from a rock background and brings that "you’ve got to be able to play it live" aesthetic to his touring band. No laptops. No headphones. Apart from the drum machine that starts "Get Innocuous," everything was played live.
The nights’ MVPs were drummer Pat Mahoney and guitarist Al Doyle. Mahoney, who looks a lot like Dave "Gruber" Allen (aka Mr. Grosso from Freaks & Geeks), is a machine behind the kit, never playing anything complicated but is precise and unrelenting. And Doyle got to show off his skills far more here than he ever has with Hot Chip, be it the funky T-Heads style required for "Us & Them" or "Get Innocuous" or the full-on rock-outs of "Movement" and "Yeah." Doyle also rocked the timbales (or toms, whatever they were) for a couple songs.
Murphy was the star and ringleader, however, despite being under-the-weather. "I made it the European tour without getting sick, and the minute I come home… what happens?" But, apart from losing his voice a bit on Friday (which led to them cutting out a song from the setlist, "Someone Great"), you’d never know he was less than 100%. He sang. He danced. He fiddled with synths, played the toms, bells, and tambourine. They played for an hour and a half easily, hitting almost all of the new album (no title track), plus "Daft Punk is Playing in My House," "Tribulations," "Movement" and "Yeah," plus a Cover of Joy Division’s "No Love Lost." (They did Siouxsie last tour.) Some seemed disappointed that "Losing My Edge" wasn’t played, but I think that one has passed its shelf life.
I do wish the set was a little tighter, with less downtime between songs. Anyone who has seen Soulwax do Nite Versions live (and, NYC, you’re a dummy if you’re not going to see them April 17 at Hiro), it’s a seamless, paint-peeling, face-melting 80-minute dance party that never loses momentum. You’re not singing along to Soulwax, but Murphy could do well to emulate the DJ-spirit those Belgians bring to live dance music.
A minor, minor quibble. The best moments both nights, for me, were "All My Friends" with its New Order guitar line, and "Yeah" which just builds to a total frenzy. Saturday was the better show, which was the over-21 night. Murphy was in better health (or it seemed), the crowd (which included most of MTV’s Human Giant, as well as Fatty Crab/5 Ninth chef Zak Pelaccio) was more pumped, just a better vibe all around. The only disappointment Saturday was the song I was most excited to hear, "Something Great." I think it’s just too keyboard-driven by nature, so the band didn’t have as much to do. Those big, pulsing synths sounded great blaring out of the speakers though. Bring on Studio B!