A sea of black and white outfitted hipsters descended upon Madison Square Garden to pay their last respects to LCD Soundsystem, one of the greatest and most influential New York bands to emerge in years. It was a funeral like no other, stretched out over a dance-frenzied, four-hour period chock full of special guests, giant white balloons, and even a miniature space ship. The crowd never abated, taking only momentary breaks between LCD’s five sets, eager to return to the sweet sound of music. While almost certainly not the last time the world will be graced with the band’s presence, the show was billed as its last, bringing on a certain somber attitude to all. Nonetheless, the dedicated musicians on stage powered through both greatest hits (“Daft Punk is Playing at My House” and “All My Friends,” to name a few) and rarities (a cover of Alan Vega’s “Bye Bye Bayou”) in a fitting farewell to its biggest and most enthusiastic fans.
Popular ’80s band Liquid Liquid took on the daunting task of opening the show with mixed results. What little of the crowd that had arrived by that time was not entirely receptive of the somewhat reclusive band, who nevertheless plowed through a tight set, paving the way for the headlining band to promptly take the stage at 9 p.m.
As the initial synthesized beats in “Dance Yrself Clean” emanated through the Garden, it was obvious that LCD was prepared to sing until he had nothing left in this blisteringly long, yet all too short show. The crowd responded with glee as the man of the hour, James Murphy, took the stage, completing the funeral motif in a white collared shirt and black blazer. It was hard to place the man’s feelings as the night progressed throughout five distinct sets. For most of the night, Murphy gleamed with pride, clearly pleased with his musical handiwork. It was clear that this band was his pride and joy, a post-disco pet project that turned into something more.
These moments made the concert a communally jubilant experience. On “I Can Change” off the recent This Is Happening, Murphy happily skipped around the stage like a kid in a candy store. The crowd fed off this energy on the following “Get Innocuous,” a song coolly dominated by Murphy’s right-hand woman, Nancy Whang. The pint -ized keyboard player spent much of the night with tears glistening in her eyes, a sure combination of both the sheer massiveness of the audience and also the reality of the situation at hand.
As promised, the show featured some delightfully placed special guest appearances, but never quite fulfilled the widely-spread rumor of a Daft Punk cameo. Comedian Reggie Watts briefly joined the band on the epic, largely wordless “45:33,” a song in six parts that only shared the second act with “Sound of Silver” and “Freakout/Starry Eyes.” “So a few years ago, we went on tour with this band,” Murphy said as several music-minded concert-goers shrieked “Arcade Fire!” Indeed, three members of the Canadian Grammy-winning band joined Murphy on the delightful “North American Scum,” a too cool for school number that finds its roots in the Talking Heads and early Rolling Stones. The audience went wild for it, although that seemingly endless insanity never abated.
LCD tightly packed its first encore with three of its best songs, all of which translated perfectly to the sold out arena. On “Someone Great,” arguably the band’s most exciting and original song, the throbbing of the synthesizer enveloped the already exhausted audience, revitalizing the masses into a blurry frenzy of dance. Likewise, “Losing My Edge” and “Home” roused the crowd’s spirits. With the latter, the audience reached an almost collective realization as they caught glimpses of Murphy’s face rapidly sinking on stage – it was almost time for the last song.
Neither of the first two songs of the final encore, “All I Want” and “Jump Into the Fire,” did their job in detracting from the melancholy that was settling among the audience. When Murphy announced that there was one song left, the audience booed out of adulation. As the band broke quietly into “New York I Love You,” a chill swept over everyone in the venue. Murphy’s voice emotionally cracked as he glanced out at the captive, swaying fans with lighters waving in the air.
It was a moment that perfectly summed up LCD’s career. For more than 10 years, the band has been delighting audiences with its relentlessly and inherently likable songs that, for many, were both cool and significant. Murphy is one of the only artists to properly address the trials and “Tribulations” of growing older and less relevant as time goes on, all the while proving his increasing musical relevance. Today, music fans all over the world mourn the loss of a groundbreaking band. Today, as LCD puts it so succinctly, “Someone great is gone.”