when something great is gone

in praise of lcd soundsystem’s final and finest moments

madison square garden, 2nd april 2011

i was there.

just as the narrator of ‘losing my edge’ was there – at the first suicide practices in a loft in NYC, and the first can shows in cologne – i was there on saturday night to witness lcd soundsystem’s last ever show.

in other words, i wasn’t there. i just wish i had been and – like murphy’s too-cool-for-school narrator on lcd’s first classic tune – i’ll probably spend the rest of my life convincing myself and others that i was there, at the greatest funeral party ever in order to up my kudos.

from what i can tell, lcd soundsystem’s final appearance at the 20,000 capacity madison square garden on saturday, 2nd april 2011 was a fantastic bow-out. i say ‘from what i can tell’, because i’m still in the process of trying to listen to the gig. the main reason for writing this was to post the entire gig – all three and a half hours of it – on here for your listening pleasure. the plan was: i post it on here, you find it, you enjoy pure sonic beauty and brilliance, fall in love with lcd soundsystem all over again and, of course, think i’m the most generous music bore ever.

but it was not to be. just as i was amazed yesterday to discover that those geniuses at pitchfork had posted the show in its entirety on youtube, so tonight i was gutted to realise it’d been pulled from the site. obviously somebody somewhere doesn’t like us having too much fun. or maybe they’re just punishing me.

well, thanks – i was enjoying that, you bastards. i only got about 90 minutes through the set before they pulled the plug. so now i’m having to trace tracks individually on youtube. it’s not nearly as much fun, but at least i’ll get to hear the whole thing eventually. so, instead of effortlessly listening to the full version here, you’ll have to make do with the full-on version of  ‘north american scum’ included above, featuring arcade fire looking like they’re enjoying themselves for the first time in their lives. it’s glorious.

initial impressions? what i’ve heard has been breathtakingly good, and i’m now genuinely envious of those who witnessed the gig.

mind you, i’m not convinced i’d have even got in the place; msg apparently sold out near immediately, and wanker touts started charging so much for tickets that the band even posted facebook and twitter messages, warning their fans that they were not worth the thousands of dollars their tickets were going for. typical james murphy self-deprecation to the end.

and, before seeing the first third of the gig, i’d have been inclined to agree with murphy; i’ve loved his band since the early days, and have seen them play numerous times…but have almost always left their gigs feeling a little empty. in my opinion, they rarely managed to translate their exhilarating mutant sound from studio to stage that well; they meandered live, and neither their rock or dance really rocked or, er, danced. their support slot before daft punk a few years back was especially flat, almost as if they were too in awe of the robots to perform. the one exception, i felt, was their gig in november 2010 at alexandra palace – their last in london, i think – which i loved; full of passion and energy, just like their records.

but even that show paled beside what i’ve heard of lcd’s msg gig. seriously, track it down, bit by bit if you must. ‘dance yrself clean’ opens proceedings perfectly, tracks like ‘tired’, ‘movement’ and ‘yeah’ move like fucking juggernauts (technical term) and the likes of ‘someone great’ and ‘all my friends’ are suitably moving. plus there’s a rare outing for their 45:33 project; ostensibly recorded as a nike-sponsored jogging track, i found the original dull…but here it’s a funkadelic beast, and a welcome breather from the rest of the set’s lunatic beats. the band are all on great form, especially nancy whang and murphy himself – her effortless glamour clashing nicely with his stubbly roughness. he carries the gig admirably, never seeming to flag and as quick to freak out as those in his adoring front row.

and, of course, the finale of ‘new york, i love you’ is as sadly happy as the original. lcd soundsystem’s more downbeat moments were made for a gig like this; as other classics such as ‘home’ show, james murphy has a rare gift for combining the euphoric with the poignant – swirling the up- with the down-beat within a song – and his talent for moving his audience will not have been wasted. i imagine there were tears of sadness as well as joy on saturday; yes, those lucky 20,000 were enjoying a party, but they also knew that once the plug was pulled it would not be reconnected.

lcd soundsystem’s madison square garden concert is an important one, as it has somehow elevated the band to the next level. in death, they’ve become bigger than they were when they were alive. murphy has called time on lcd after nine years, three albums and plenty of odds-and-ends because…he wanted to. simple – and smart – as that. he’d been threatening to do so for so long that people started missing them before they’d left the building. therefore, by the time they did decide to split for good, everyone realised how much they’d miss them and insisted on witnessing their end. canny marketing or co-incidence? who cares; all i know is that now, a mere two days after their split, a lot more people seem to care about one of my favourite bands than they used to.

“hey, breaking up is an idea that has occurred to far too few groups. sometimes to the wrong ones,” the mighty steve albini wrote in the liner notes to big black’s final album, songs about fucking.

albini got it right, and so has murphy; his band will be remembered and revered, not least because of their soon-to-be-legendary madison square garden gig. and i should know: i was there.

and, now, so were you.

set list

because i’m frankly lovely, here’s the set list from saturday’s gig. you’ll need it to track down each video on youtube. until they post the whole gig again. the vicious bastards.

further lcd-ing

pitchfork recently gave us this lovingly-compiled overview of lcd’s output. i can’t top that… but whether you’re here because you’ve never heard lcd soundsystem before, or you just fancy a reminder of what made them so damn fine, here are my top 5 lcd tracks. you’ll thank me. or at least you should:

5) ‘dance yrself clean’

stunning start of their final album, this is happening. the change in tempo around three minutes in is thrilling. watch that volume…

4) ‘losing my edge’

where it all started. hilarious, tragic and near-epileptic.

3) ‘new york, i love you’

just plain beautiful. a song to make the heart sigh.

2) ‘home’

everything i have to say is here.

1) ‘yeah’

near ten minutes of insanely fine music. and the last word on lcd.

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