Saw Mr. James Murphy and Co. last night...
In the 3 years since I've seen the band, they've become an even tighter and more powerful live act. Even songs I was not really a fan of on their records were delivered with such focused abandon that it was impossible to not shake a head or foot in timed unison. Stylistically, the songs and band seamlessly weaved in a rich cross-section of record geek "hip" subgenres (disco, electro, hip hop, no wave, new wave, post punk) with a decidedly nyc flair. Murphy takes his talking points in the definitive "Losing My Edge" as both an ironic critique of "hipster" authenticity and a genuine sonic blueprint for his own music and artistic influences:
But have you seen my records? This Heat, Pere Ubu, Outsiders, Nation of Ulysses, Mars, The Trojans, The Black Dice, Todd Terry, the Germs, Section 25, Althea and Donna, Sexual Harrassment, a-ha, Pere Ubu, Dorothy Ashby, PIL, the Fania All-Stars, the Bar-Kays, the Human League, the Normal, Lou Reed, Scott Walker, Monks, Niagra,
Joy Division, Lower 48, the Association, Sun Ra,
Scientists, Royal Trux, 10cc,
Eric B. and Rakim, Index, Basic Channel, Soulsonic Force ("just hit me"!), Juan Atkins, David Axelrod, Electric Prunes, Gil! Scott! Heron!, the Slits, Faust, Mantronix, Pharaoh Sanders and the Fire Engines, the Swans, the Soft Cell, the Sonics, the Sonics, the Sonics, the Sonics.
You don't know what you really want.
As opposed to label mates The Juan MacLean and Holy Ghost!, LCD Soundsystem interjects its quite deliberate genre play with Murphy's fearlessly personal lyrics and uniquely droll charisma. At the show, this combination created an interesting and at times jarring juxtaposition of delivery and reception between the band and the audience. There were times where I was very aware of watching a man who clearly has an intimacy with sadness, yet the majority of the largely inebriated early 20-something audience seemed to only connect with the throbbing beat and melodic elements of the lyrics, not the actual content. For example, at the beginning of the fantastically epic yet lamenting live version of "Someone Great", a young drunk girl said "Oh my God I love this song." People started pumping their fists and swirling their feet in circles, but check out these lyrics:
I wish that we could talk about it,
But there, that's the problem.
With someone new I could have started,
Too late, for beginnings.
You're smaller than my wife imagined,
Surprised, you were human.
There shouldn't be this ring of silence,
But what, are the options?
When someone great is gone.
This is a really fucking sad song and watching it being performed actually made me feel bad for Murphy. It must be a strange experience for him, as a forty year old man, to be processing his emotional life for an audience that is 10-20 years younger than him. I think it's fair to say that age group is generally too young to really understand the burden of time and its emotional toll. Nonetheless, there was an element of catharsis to much of the music, and that seems to be the trade off. This was particularly true of a near sublime version of "Me and My Friends" that built to an audience sing-along crescendo with full stage lights blaring (keyboardist Nancy Whang was beaming with surprise)
and also a mash up of "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" into a cover of "Empire State of Mind" that ended the show in a flurry of white balloons toasting the city and the audience.
It's quite a hat trick that Murphy pulls off, allowing listeners deep into his inner psyche while inspiring them to dance into yesterday's future, today. Definitely one of the best and most moving shows I've seen in quite a while.