I remember the first time I spotted LCD Soundsystem’s lead singer and creator James Murphy on the L train. It was a Sunday afternoon and we were the only two people in the car, besides a street performer playing a saxophone for change. I sat there only a few feet away from both of them, studying James as he leaned against the door with his headphones on. The performance was one I will never forget. He played that thing with blood sweat and tears, jumping around flailing his legs, while at the same time hitting some of the worst possible notes he could or could not think of. James just stood there nonplussed, as if the man wasn’t even there before exiting the train on 1st Avenue. Though we never made eye contact, I am pretty sure we both shared a moment of random perplexity that made us think to ourselves “Only in New York City” which is perhaps one of the many reasons we love this place so much.
Nearly 5 years later, I found myself standing in a line outside of Mercury Lounge amongst 500+ people for hours anxious to get general admission tickets to what would be the last LCD Soundsystem show ever. The company of friends was the only thing keeping me from thinking about standing there in 14 degree weather risking hypothermia, and the fact that I woke up at 7am to go stand on a line in the first place. A month later, as we walked into Madison Square Garden, my friends and I sighed the words of relief “totally worth it”… When we made it to the floor, we just stood there for a minute and spun our heads around in amazement. We watched hundreds upon hundreds of people dance there asses off, all in unison bearing ear to ear grins. Everyone was clad in black and white, as this was a “funeral” for the band of sorts, but no way did it feel like one. We all knew we were part of something huge. I don’t mean to gush, but you just had to be there.
The show started on a somber note, playing the first bars of 10cc’s “Not In Love”, a track I always include on CD mixes for friends, though I am sure it went unnoticed to most of the audience. The first set included “Dance Yrself Clean”, “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”, “All My Friends”, and “Tired” with a snippet of 70’s progressive rock band Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise”, a song I have known since my toddler years. It was a joyful ending as my friends and I danced arm in arm, and great predecessor to the following 2 and a half hours the show still had.
The second set started with a track they made for a Nike ad called “45:33”, which most perceived was performed as a joke, but mostly so Murphy could take a break. The tune previews clips of songs that later became the track list to their sophomore studio release “Sound Of Silver”. Some of the special guest who joined them onstage include Reggie Watts, and DFA affiliates The Juan Maclean and Shit Robot who performed in a rocket ship and a pyramid, putting to rest the rumors that Daft Punk would be making an appearance. Coming into the third set saw Arcade Fire approach the stage to back vocals for “North American Scum”, a ground-shaking performance of “Movement”, the very first song I ever heard by them, and “Home” which I am sure left a cry ball in everyones throat.
But the real tear jerker, of course, was “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”, and it was so for so many reasons. As James announced that he was about to sing his last song ever, the audience booed, prompting him to ask not for boos but for cheers, and cheers he got, for about 5 minutes in fact. He thanked his family, fans, friends, and band mates with tears in his eyes, and started the song, adding profoundly long pauses in between lines. During the songs ending, white balloons fell from the ceiling, and James bowed, sealing the deal on one of the best live performances I have ever seen in my entire life, and the end of LCD Soundsystem.
I still haven’t made eye contact with James, and I probably never will for that matter, but I feel like we relived that moment from 5 years ago. There was no train, no crazy saxophone player, just a lot of love, a lot of energy and an amazing perfromance. Thank you LCD Soundsystem for the music, for the memories, and for sharing a fondness for New York City that will never die…