Sunday, 24 September 2017

LCD Soundsystem:Don't it make you feel alive?

Man, LCD Soundsystem are big. Pulling over 10,000 people, two nights in a row, to north London's cavernous Alexandra Palace is no mean feat. The sound's big too. I started the gig thinking they'd become festival headliner material and I left thinking about stadiums. Depeche Mode have been filling them for years and LCD's expert fusion of rock tropes with, sometimes punishing, sometimes funky, electronica seems to be the logical conclusion of what they started, the anchor leg of a relay that's seen the baton passed on from Kraftwerk to Depeche Mode to Daft Punk and finally to James Murphy's thrilling gang of New York noise makers.

Not that they particularly sound like any of those bands. They're a little too arch, too self-referencing, and far too self-aware for that. They certainly pull them in as influences but they also take in bits of Talking Heads, David Bowie, The Fall, and New Order too. James Murphy's cherry-picked from the entire history of leftfield rock and electronic music to come up with something that's uniquely his, a quintessential history of much that's been great in music over the last forty or so years.

That doesn't mean it only resonates with us older music fans. There are plenty here who, back in 2002 when LCD released their debut single, wouldn't have even gained their edge yet, let alone lost it. The band seem to have been on a gradual, yet continuous, upward curve in terms of success. Even taking four years off after 'splitting up' in 2011 only seemed to increase our appetite for them. To think that this was the same band that back in 2007, when I was writing reviews for the Subbacultcha website, I had to virtually plead to take a +1 to!

I'd been tired on Saturday afternoon. In the week running up to the gig I'd been to see both The Jesus and Mary Chain and Sleaford Mods. Both had been great but it was a higher gigging rate than I'd been used to in recent years and the late nights (and, no doubt, the liquid refreshment that accompanied them) had taken their toll. By 11pm, when I walked out through the vast concourse of Ally Pally into the still young London night, I felt like I could've stayed up ' til 4am. I didn't. I went home, ate a chocolate biscuit, and went to bed but the important thing was I felt like I could've done.

Pam and I had started off the evening round Kathy's being fed exceedingly tasty goats' cheese pasta bake, sampling exotic gins (I passed on this part), and going down a Spotify wormhole of 70s disco. It was lovely but without a visit to the pub as a sort of a nursery slope, volume wise, to prepare us for the gig it felt like the noise was almost overwhelming at first.

Picking tracks evenly from across all four LCD albums (and leaving out crowd pleasers like Losing my Edge, Daft Punk is Playing at My House, Drunk Girls, and North American Scum) this gig was acting as both a celebration, and an overview, of all that was great about the band. An opening salvo of the anthemic, cowbell heavy Us vs Them, I Can Change's wistful look back at eighties synthpop, and the anything but innocuous Get Innocuous set the scene, got the mirrorball spinning, the phones waved in the air, and the pints spilling.

There's a lot of 'em in the LCD live experience but whilst Pat Mahoney, Tyler Pope, and the rest all deserve their credit the two focal points are clearly James Murphy and Nancy Whang. She's as glamorous as he is unglamorous. Swapping guitar for keyboards and back again, she comes across like the vice-president of the whole firm. But there's no doubt that, at the end of the day, it's Murphy's baby. He may look like he's just woke up, hasn't brushed the sleep out of his eyes, and is wearing the clothes he slept in but you'd be mad to think he's not entirely in control of proceedings. To the point that he informs the audience, twice, that when they go off stage it'll be for a urination break, an intermission, and definitely not an encore. Don't be thinking they'd do something as crass as that.

His voice is a strangely powerful beast as well. Mostly he keeps it functional, powerful yet restrained, but in songs like I Can Change and Someone Great, when the emotion is ramped up he allows it to lift to a slightly higher register as if to briefly acknowledge that emotional shift. Without that there'd be a danger of the band being a little too clinical but that, at first barely detectable, minor change does a fair bit of heavy lifting for the band and it's in these moments that the bond between audience and band are most firmly established. They're the loving cuddles that follow a series of hard and fast bangers.

What was hard but definitely not fast was the bar service. In the time it took me to get served I'd missed Call the Police, You Wanted A Hit, and, most disappointingly of all, my favourite LCD song:- Tribulations. It seems something of a trademark move by me to be either at the bar, or in the bogs, during my favourite song at whichever gig I'm attending.

I could hear these songs - but not properly. But luckily I was back in again, and glugging from a two pint jug to save further visits, for Someone Great. It was the songs from Sound of Silver that perhaps stood out the most on the evening. Whilst there was plenty to admire, and shake our asses to, in American Dream's Tonite and I Used To it was the popping, slow building paean to love and loss of Someone Great, the bitter lament to a city changed for the worse of New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down (more Frank Sinatra croon than Mark E Smith drawl), and, played as an absolutely epic set closer, All My Friends that were the songs that were spinning round my head on the bus back to Finsbury Park, the tube to Brixton, and when I woke up this morning. In You Wanted  A Hit, from 2010's This is Happening, Murphy claimed "maybe we don't do hits". That wasn't true then - and it's certainly not now.

No comments:

Post a Comment