James Murphy seemed poised to get sentimental. The timing was right: Monday night marked the first of disco-dance and funk-punk band LCD Soundsystem’s five farewell shows. Murphy, the beloved frontman and founder, took a moment to talk song meanings with the sold-out crowd in the first chunk of LCD’s three-hour show after finishing “Time To Get Away” from Sound Of Silver. Murphy explained that the track could’ve been about an ex-girlfriend or a friendship gone sour. “But that song’s about my old manager,” Murphy said, “so fuck that dude.” And with that, any potential for weepy nostalgia on the kickoff night evaporated.
The marathon evening started promptly at 8 p.m. with Liquid Liquid, the early ’80s dance-punk group, led by vocalist Salvatore Principato, a guy who bears a striking resemblance to John Waters. Liquid Liquid is best known for its track “Cavern,” a hip-hop sample favorite (Grandmaster Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” is just one that borrows from the tune). In the live setting, its mix of grooving bass parts and a percussion medley that included everything from a marimba to roto-toms suggested that the band must have had a huge influence on Murphy’s sound. Liquid Liquid wrapped things after playing for just over 30 minutes, as Principato joked that the venue had threatened the band “with beatings” if the set went into overtime.
The lights dimmed again at 9:08 p.m. as LCD Soundsystem, plus some members of its extended family, hit the stage. Murphy sauntered out last, plastic cup in hand and wearing a black suit whose jacket, collared shirt and tie would be discarded as the night wore on. The first segment of the epic concert opened with “Dance Yrself Clean,” Nancy Whang at a white keyboard pulpit, Murphy as dance preacher and a choir of angels, or rather 10 mic-ed vocalists, singing from the balcony. The massive ensemble soared through This Is Happening tracks like “Drunk Girls” and “I Can Change,” Sound Of Silver’s “Get Innocuous!” and “All My Friends,” and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” “Thrills” and “Yr City’s A Sucker” from the band’s self-titled debut.
LCD clocked out at 10:08 only to reemerge for round two four minutes later. This set featured guest vocals from Reggie Watts, blasts from a surprise brass section, even more backup singers and the robotic sounds of vocal filters. There were no bad sections in LCD’s performance, but this one was the least-amazing of the night. This portion involved a blend of tunes from 45:33, that piece that Murphy did for Nike back in 2006, and Sound Of Silver. Most of these tracks involved extended electronic tinkering, and though some in the audience touted its awesomeness after the band disappeared for a pee break, the crowd’s collective bouncing waned during the predominantly instrumental section.
The hits returned with a vengeance for the closing act, which started at 10:58. Murphy and the band served up highlights like “Us V Them,” “Yeah” and “Tribulations” on a shiny disco-ball platter and slowed things down slightly with the spiky confrontation of “You Wanted A Hit.” After five songs, most of the band vanished in an eye-piercing blaze of blinking white lights, while some stayed on stage to play with the synthesizers. The full gang returned for three more songs, exited and returned once more for the classic LCD closer “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Before Murphy sang the first note, someone in the crowd yelled out, “LCD, I love you, but you’re bringing me down!” The exclamation was met at first with laughs, then with resounding aws as everyone remembered the purpose of this week’s shows: to bid a reluctant adieu to the best band in New York. But if LCD must go, then at least it goes out like a glitter-covered lion, roaring more than three hours of shiny mayhem into the hearts and ears of its adoring fans.