Published Apr 03, 2011Where did all these people come from? LCD Soundsystem and their fans have been wondering.
They were there, hundreds of them, at a Lower East Side box office yawning and clutching coffee on a particularly cold morning, hoping to get pre-sale tickets to the band's last show. They were there, in front of their computers, tweeting James Murphy frantically after seats sold out in minutes. They were there at the mid-size Terminal 5 venue in New York for the four sets of shows the band added to quell anger and irk greedy scalpers who scooped up the initial batch of tickets. And, of course, they were there Saturday night at Madison Square Garden -- decked out in black and white -- to say goodbye to the band that gave them punk songs to dance to, dance songs with heart and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that never lost their edge.
This was an event, not simply a concert. Despite the string of shows earlier that week, the band were at their finest. Surrounded by walls of lights, white instruments and speakers, they opened with "Dance Yrself Clean" as glow sticks spewed into the crowd. From the beginning, it was clear that in this context certain lyrics would take on new meaning. "Everybody's getting younger, it's the end of an era it's true," Murphy crooned earnestly.
The band split the show into three segments with short intermissions to recharge. Each career-spanning hour got progressively better. In the first, "All My Friends" predictably sparked a passionate sing-along. The group ran through crowd-pleasers like "Drunk Girls," "I Can Change" and "Time to Get Away," but inhibitions didn't melt until hour two. Re-emerging, the band launched into 45:33 (parts one through six) with help from comedian/musician Reggie Watts. A men's choir dressed in white -- and later silver body suits -- stood in seats over the stage and joined in, most memorably, for an electric version of "Sound of Silver."
"Us V Them" turned into a full-on dance party with flailing bodies occupying the aisles. But the unexpected climax that left everyone hoarse and dizzy with disbelief unfolded as Murphy -- who, throughout, introduced his mass of bandmates, including drummer Pat Mahoney and keyboardist/vocalist Nancy Whang -- described the guests that would join them for "North American Scum." His hints: they were part Canadian, part American and had toured together with LCD in the recent past. (Cue screams.) Out came Win Butler's grinning face, along with a few other members of Arcade Fire. Their backing vocals were subtle, but it didn't matter. This was, after all, LCD's night.
The palpable downward shift into more reflective territory came with "Someone Great." It looked as though the show would end with a bang, but as streams of blue light dissolved into the pulsating opening notes, the mood turned sombre. With eyes closed and heads tilted back, the audience's voice rivaled Murphy's for the refrain, "When someone great is gone."
The band disappeared to the back of the stage before the encore. Despite the dim lights, perceptive onlookers could see them pull together with a large group of family and friends dressed in white to embrace before breaking into a private, goofy dance, then launching back on stage to end the only way they could. Time-lapsed photos of the city's skyline flickered on screens while the band broke into "New York, I Love You" and Murphy thanked the crowd. White balloons burst from the roof. The room swayed and sang along.
You could almost hear the collective mumble after as everyone streamed into the subway under the streets where it all began a decade ago: "But I was there. I was there."