Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Concert Review: LCD Soundsystem at the Eagles Ballroom

I hate going to shows with women. Or men. Or pets, but I guess that's obvious. Basically, I hate going to shows with a group of people larger than two. I'd go to shows alone, but I'd look like a total lame-o.

Friday night's sold-out LCD Soundsystem show at the Eagle's Ballroom suffered from an excess of women in my party. Nice girls, but also girls who needed to pee, smoke, and buy seven dollar Miller Lites a lot. Needless to say, after losing "the girls" for the fourth or fifth time, myself and my sole male companion were a tad miffed. I'd also gone along with the concept of playing a couple more games of Music Catchphrase instead of seeing openers Hot Chip and was slightly pissed at myself for my acquiescence.

But, like a concert version of Baldur's Gate, we needed only to gather our party before venturing forth. The women returned, and the lights went down.

LCD Soundsystem, for our readers who only listen to Ke$ha and watch $#*! My Dad Says (you fictional people apparently prefer your art with dollar signs in the title), is a thoroughly post-modern disco/punk/electronic hybrid that is primarily the work of New York musician James Murphy. Murphy's also the co-owner of DFA Records (known as Death From Above Records before September 11th turned us all into Wal-Mart shoppers) and one-half of the DFA production team, who've put out some of my favorite remixes of the past half-decade.

But Murphy's work with LCD is probably his best, and that's saying something considering his mile-long musical rap sheet. His work with the band is miraculous for its tofu-like ability to adapt to its surroundings: full-bodied enough to work as rock but sinewy enough to be convincing dance music, the music of LCD Soundsystem is surely incomparable. Throw in some casually brilliant (and deceptively stupid) lyrics, and the concept of LCD Soundsystem's imminent demise becomes almost suicidally depressing. But they're here for now, and their live show will kick your fucking teeth out.

Wisely, the band chose to open with "Dance Yrself Clean," the first track on the band's 2010 album, This Is Happening. The quietly click-clacky drums that open the track, offset by casual synth vamps, served as a perfect warm-up for the evening. You could practically feel the anticipation in the air as the band worked its way through the changes: mumbled verse, wordless refrain, mumbled verse, wordless refrain, and then...

DUN-DUN-DUN. Those live drums kicked in, the lights turned schizo, and the crowd went apeshit. All the frustration of the prior part of the evening melted into the sweaty, joyous mass of LCD. They don't call it "Dance Yrself Clean" for nothing.

The setup focused on the essentials of the experience: drums 'n synths for playin', lights for dancin'. The latter, which were arrayed in the back and on the sides of the stage, goaded the audience into even deeper rhythmic ecstasy, as if they needed any encouragement.

The evening was peppered with other high points: the righteous one-two punch of a dancefloor-augmented "I Can Change" and the always religious ecstasy of "All My Friends"; the ecstatic shout-alongs in "Tribulations"; vain attempts to pick out your favorite line in "Losing My Edge."

It wasn't a perfect show. "Yeah" got a tad ponderous in its eighth minute or so but, to its credit, started being awesome again around the eleven-minute mark. The sound in the Eagles Ballroom, much like its Chicago counterpart the Aragon Ballroom, left a lot to be desired. You never could hear much of Murphy's trademark banter, one of my favorite parts of the LCD Soundsystem experience. In person, Murphy is the same self-deprecating, irreverent personality you'd expect from his music, and I was disappointed that I missed out on his inimitable wit this time around.

But the greatest disappointment of the evening was how exhausted the whole thing felt. It's not that the show suffered much for Murphy's obvious fatigue; he didn't have quite the same spring in his step as the last time I saw him, in 2007, but he still managed to put on a great show.

It's clear, though, that touring has become something of a chore for James Murphy. Simply put, the band's breaking up, and you can tell why. Now that I think about it, maybe the reason that I didn't hear more of his banter was that there was simply less of it. The perpetually schlubby Murphy has made a career out of being laconic and detached, but LCD is great because they choose to say little, not because they have to.

So while I enjoyed just about every minute of my second LCD Soundsystem show, I'll always remember it bittersweetly for one reason: it made it clear why one of my favorite bands is going away.