This weekend, LCD Soundsystem graced the stage twice in the Northwest—first at the Roseland on Saturday and then on the mainstage of the Sasquatch! festival on Sunday night. I was there for the Sasquatch! show, and the band sounded incredible: Seven musicians onstage, totally locked in sync, taking songs ostensibly created solely by leader James Murphy and turning them into living, breathing dance-rock beasts. At moments in the set the band sounded like both Talking Heads and David Bowie, which is no small feat in itself, and when the fat, speaker-bursting synth line came in halfway through "Yeah (Crass Version)," I thought the entire Gorge would crack into one massive sinkhole. Freelance photographer Ben Johnson couldn't make it up to the Gorge, but he was there to capture every strobe light and Murphy grunt at the Roseland. Devan Cook added a live review of the show, too. It's almost too much LCD! -Ed.
UPDATE: Devan Cook's review
Before the release of the new LCD Soundsystem album, This Is Happening, James Murphy told URB magazine, “The album is nine songs and 65 minutes long, which is somewhat embarrassing.” Murphy continues to be the self-deprecating musician that we all fell in love with back in 2004 with the release of his first single, “Losing My Edge,” a tongue-in-cheek commentary on music snobbery and what Murphy describes as him being “horrified by [his] own silliness.”
But while Murphy continues to take the humble approach to describing himself and his music, the rest of us know better; whether he indulges in a 12-minute disco anthem or pens a more concise tune about the woes of reaching adulthood, it's probably going to be pretty damn brilliant.
The show at the Roseland on Saturday night was LCD's first show in Portland in several years. Nancy Whang (keyboards/synthesizers), whose family resides in Portland, waved to her excited mother in the balcony. LCD also gave nods to locals Yacht, who previously toured with them in Europe. “This may be the warmest reception we've gotten yet.” Murphy said after opening with “Us v Them," and before launching into new single “Drunk Girls”, both of which he noted sounded better than they had for the rest of their shows due to a much needed two days off. The amount of energy that goes into an LCD Soundsystem show seems befitting of a few days rest beforehand. After they knocked out high tempo dance anthems “Get Innocuous,” “Yr City's A Sucker,” ”Pow Pow,” and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” all in a row, it made sense that Murphy's croon felt a little lackluster when he exhaustedly transitioned into “All I Want” off the new album, a gorgeously melancholy track that, disappointingly, didn't stand out much in the live show.
However, any brief disappointment was immediately forgotten when Gavin Russom, DFA musician acclaimed for his technical skill, struck the opening keys of “All My Friends.” The standout track from 2007's Sound of Silver has not suffered any loss to its poignancy from being overplayed, and hearing it live brought the same increase of heart palpitations experienced the first time hearing the song nearly three years ago. As Murphy sang, “You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan/and the next five years trying to be with your friends again” the timing with the beginning of summer felt appropriate. School is ending, the weather is improving, and the desire to spend long, lazy days not contemplating our futures but merely living in the moment is creeping into our consciousness. The opportunity to see one of the greatest pop anthems of the past decade, if not ever, performed live and with a showcase of emotions from Murphy as if he had written it yesterday was a highlight that momentarily could make one forget the spendy $38 price tag for the show's tickets.
During the encore, when LCD returned to their origins in 2004 playing “Losing My Edge,” all the snark and sarcastic fun was still there, but despite his best efforts to be that slightly overweight, 40 year-old loser with a bunch of great records (and a younger generation filling his old spot), Murphy failed miserably. Because the fact of the matter is, all that generational disconnect, the self deprecation, the encyclopedic knowledge of popular music—the reaching of middle life is what makes Murphy relevant. It allows him to pen near-perfect pop songs with real weight, and gives him his edge over those “kids who look impossibly tan” that are half his age.
LCD concluded the show with “New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down,” which then transitioned into a cover of Jay-Z's “Empire State of Mind.” One could have felt some anxiety as the show ended and the lights came on with the fear that they had witnessed Murphy's magic for the last time, as he has hinted to the press that this may be LCD's last album. Personally, I don't buy i:, this is an artist whose edge is still being refined, who clearly still has much more to say.
Us v. Them
Yr. City's A Sucker
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
All I Want
All My Friends
I Can Change
Losing My Edge
NY I Love You/Empire State of Mind