If I were to guess which moment of the nearly four hour final LCD Soundsystem concert will stick out for me in five, or even ten, years, it would probably be when “All My Friends” peaked, the crowd collectively losing themselves in screams of “Where are your friends tonight?”. It was a wave of togetherness that crashed through Madison Square Garden, but with an undercurrent of loneliness you know waits in the next moment, that always lurks in LCD Soundsystem’s lyrics even when accompanied by the most irresistible hooks. And this just perfectly captures the feeling of being in New York, with people all moving around you, but you’re still alone. Where are your friends in these strange faces?
I’ve started this out on a sad note, but Saturday’s concert was much more of an exuberant celebration than a funeral. Most everyone adhered the the requested dress code: black and white. I even saw some people in full tuxedos. After the months of ticket scalping drama and the series of pre-finale shows at Terminal 5, it was still hard to believe it was finally time to say goodbye to LCD Soundsystem. I can’t think of any other band that has done so well at synthesizing the history of modern music into something that is derivative in the most original way.
I got to the massive venue early enough to hear legends Liquid Liquid. (This has to be the biggest concert I’ve ever been to.) By the time LCD Soundsystem took the stage and started into the slow building “Dance Yrself Clean,” the place was packed. When the bass beat finally dropped, glowsticks flew in the air and the stadium pulsed. A few times in the concert I paused to look at the thousands of dancing people around me, who never lost enthusiasm during the band’s three sets and following encore.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, LCD Soundsystem was led by music genius James Murphy, who had some success with bands in his 20s, but didn’t start his own band until his 30s. LCD Soundsystem’s first single, “Losing My Edge,” is a half spoken/half sung diatribe about losing your music coolness to younger kids. With their three full albums, ending with This is Happening in 2010, Murphy made some of the best music of the past decade. Every song is so incredibly focused, nothing is sonically wasted, as if Murphy only planned to do this for a short period of time. And from what I’ve read, he had, not wanting to keep being in a band in his 40s.
So 10 years after the start of LCD Soundsystem, they ended with a sprawling performance that included their best songs, as well as some surprises like the “45:33” running track, which was made even more incredible with an appearance by Reggie Watts. (Okay, not exactly a surprise as it was played at the Terminal 5 shows.) Other special guests included Arcade Fire on “North American Scum” and some alien spaceships…that I’m still trying to figure out. There was a male choir that chanted from the stands and the stage was covered with instruments.
It wasn’t a surprise how the concert ended. The balloons were hanging from the ceiling, we all knew which song was left. That still didn’t make it any less emotional when the band finished “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” and white balloons tumbled to the crowd. Everyone slowly moved to the stairs and out into the streets, where the Empire State Building was lit in blue and the words came back to me from the final song: “You’re still the one pool where I’d happily drown.”