Concert Reviews

LCD Soundsystem Says It Doesn't Do Hits But Was Generous With Them Monday Night

LCD Soundsystem played to a sold-out room Monday night.
Mike Brooks
LCD Soundsystem played to a sold-out room Monday night.
LCD Soundsystem
with Big Freedia
Bomb Factory, Dallas
Monday, Oct. 30, 2017

Based on the atmosphere inside the Bomb Factory last night, some might have guessed that it was a federal holiday. The venue was packed to the hilt with people guzzling beers and chatting up their neighbors. One woman, Allison Bonifay, wore a silver sequin body suit with matching shoes and a disco ball head piece with the blinking letters "LCD."

"I've been to a few," she said, when asked if this was her first LCD Soundsystem concert. "But my husband's a diehard fan, and we're headed to Austin tomorrow." Bonifay, who is from Dallas, said she'd crafted the outfit with a friend.

Although it was a regular Monday, the Bomb Factory had sold out. The occasion was the first Dallas performance by LCD Soundsystem since the New York-based dance rock band, fronted by James Murphy, played the Palladium Ballroom in 2010.

A little backstory: In 2011, LCD Soundystem watched its own funeral. The band had attained critical success and modest popularity with its first two albums. The third, 2010's This Is Happening, was the first to crack the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and make the band something close to a household name.

But within nine months of This Is Happening's release, LCD Soundsystem announced it was breaking up. It performed a string of shows at Terminal 5 in New York, culminating with a final three-hour blowout at Madison Square Garden in April.

I was in the audience at Madison Square Garden that night. LCD Soundsystem's early singles, "Tribulations" and "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" were fairly ubiquitous by that point, but like many of the people I spoke with that night, I had only a faint idea of who the group was. The ticket had been a gift from a childhood friend who had seen one of the Terminal 5 shows and wanted someone else to have the experience.

In August, Murphy told the New York Times that the breakup had been manufactured to sell tickets — anticipated to move slowly — to the already-booked Madison Square Garden show.

“My theory was, if I make it our last show, we’ll sell it out in two weeks,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t a total lark, but it was a bit larky,”

LCD Soundsystem made a fan out of me and lots of other people there, but in a sick twist of fate, its members had to follow through on their promise to walk away from their careers after the show, just as they reached a new peak.

But LCD Soundsystem didn't walk away forever. Last year, the band reunited to headline Coachella. Now it's touring behind American Dream, a new album released in September.

click to enlarge MIKE BROOKS
Mike Brooks
LCD Soundsystem walked onto the Bomb Factory stage around 9:45 Monday night as the last notes of Donna Summer's "Last Dance" rang out over the venue's speakers. The band dove right into "Oh Baby," an atmospheric slow burner that would do well on the soundtrack to Stranger Things.

It made good sense as the opener since it's the lead single off of the new album, but for those who came to dance, it was a slightly underwhelming beginning to the show. Still, it left plenty of room for the set to build.

For the next song, "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House," a giant disco ball descended above the band. The light it reflected was so blinding it almost required the use of sunglasses.

The disco ball was one of the flashier aspects of LCD Soundsystem's stage design Monday, which mostly relied on the creative, effective use of white light. But while the set was simple, the gear onstage was not. A musician friend standing near me estimated the band's equipment was worth at least $70,000.

The energy in the room picked up during the more upbeat "Daft Punk," which was the first of many older songs LCD Soundsystem played throughout the evening. It only played half of the new album, reserving half of the evening's set list to the best-known songs from its self-titled debut, Sound of Silver and This Is Happening.

When "Daft Punk" was over, an out-of-breath but good-humored Murphy said the band struggled with what to play next because the song is so "exhausting" and "old." The spotlight was on Murphy most of the night, and his banter with the audience was minimal but friendly.

On LCD Soundsystem's albums, Murphy's voice can have an endearing weirdness that recalls other eccentric rock vocalists, such as David Byrne. But Monday night, his voice sounded downright silky at times.

click to enlarge MIKE BROOKS
Mike Brooks
Constructed live, LCD Soundsystem's songs could also be appreciated in a new way. Backing vocals and nuances of the synths that get buried in the studio versions came through more clearly.

The band as a whole did not move around much although the arrangement of the players allowed for more intimate interaction. Drummers are often relegated to the shadows, but drummer Pat Mahoney was angled sideways near the front of stage left.

The band showed its many faces Monday night. Toward the end of 2007's "Get Innocuous," it sounded like a jam band, whereas "Call the Police," off American Dream, was straight-up '80s rock. At other times, the group sounded like the second coming of New Order.

But the high points of the set were the older songs with the strongest emotional current, such as "I Can Change," "Someone Great," "Home" and "All My Friends." American Dream is comparable in quality to LCD Soundsystem's past work, but the crowd response was more lukewarm to those songs, most likely because people have not had time to become familiar with them.

The emotional songs were packed more tightly toward the end of the set, so the show and the crowd response seemed to continue improving as it went on. LCD Soundsystem makes music for sensitive and anxious people who enjoy working it out through dancing, and the crowd that showed up Monday night spanned all ages.

Dancing was a bit of a challenge, as it is at any sold-out Bomb Factory show. The general admission setup means concertgoers are packed body to body. In this environment, it is critical to take up all of the available space around you with your dance moves. If you are not using the space, you will lose it. And forget leaving to get a drink mid-show. You will never get your spot back.

But Monday night, Dallasites from the front of the venue to the back did their best, looking more like they were vibrating than dancing.

Toward the end of the main set, Murphy stopped the show to promise an encore and make fun of the tradition.

"We're going to play a handful, a grip, a clutch, a flock, a murder of songs, and then we're gonna go away for a second and go to the bathroom," he said. "And then we'll come back. So we're not pretending we're done and we're gonna [be] back cause we're so nice." Then LCD Soundsystem launched into "Home" as a backdrop of stars lit up behind it.

When the group returned for the encore, Murphy thanked the crowd for partying on a Monday night. "Everybody is going to die," he said, playing into just the sort of upbeat nihilism his band is loved for. "It's just work."

Set List
Oh Baby
Daft Punk Is Playing at My House
call the police
I Can Change
Get Innocuous!
You Wanted a Hit
Someone Great
change yr mind
Yr City's A Sucker
I Want Your Love (Chic cover)

Emotional Haircut
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends