LCD Soundsystem feel close to maximum power in Malahide
The sun sets, the disco ball twinkles, arms go round shoulders and the night feels complete
An unassuming and dishevelled James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem
At Malahide Castle, James Murphy commands the stage like Pericles when he appealed to the Athenian assembly for war against the Spartans. The great Greek orator and general stroked his beard as he addressed the ancient governmental institute.
“When our fathers stood against the Persians they had no such resources as we have now,” Pericles bellowed. “We must live up to the standard they set.”
But even he couldn’t have imagined being armed with the battering set of analogue synths at the disposal of Murphy’s infantry or that the standards once set included All My Friends.
Are LCD Soundsystem a legacy group? This is a strange thing to be pondering about a project that came together sometime around the debut of The Wire. But the band fossilised in 2011 only to be resurrected less than five years later, marking their return with a string of lucrative gigs – a legacy group move if ever there was one.
(It’s a little dubious throwing a huge farewell show in Madison Square Garden only to re-emerge so soon after. Kind of like that friend who threw a party to celebrate their move to Amsterdam only to come home three months later).
Nobody was sad to have LCD Soundsystem back, mind you. But there’s such a thing as catching a live act the right time. When they’re at their peak of relevance; when the magic is with them. And this was a band that worked within dance-punk, a genre that enjoyed a period of popularity shorter than the career of most White House staffers under the current administration. If you don’t believe me, go ask The Rapture.
Things haven’t gone entirely smoothly. At the Scottish festival T In The Park two years ago, almost nobody showed up to see LCD Soundsystem’s set. Last year, their new album American Dream charted highly on everyone’s year-end lists because it was a good LCD Soundsystem music.
You wouldn’t know that this is one of the world’s biggest live draws from their low-key entrance, which takes everyone off guard
“Sounds pretty good,” I thought, moving on after maybe three listens. Somehow, one of the bands that defined my halcyon college days had become boring in their brilliance.
So I jump off the Dart in Malahide with one question gnawing at my spirit, burning the deepest caverns of my soul: could Murphy make LCD Soundsystem relevant in 2018?
You wouldn’t know that this is one of the world’s biggest live draws from their low-key entrance, which takes everyone off guard. That’s Murphy though, right? Typically unassuming and dishevelled, he croons over the rickety guitar chords of opener You Wanted a Hit.
Most of the crowd seems in the 30s age bracket. One guy, 31, quips about getting older and losing his edge. Hawaiian shirts flow in the breeze. I Can Change is still an incredible banger. The energy of Call The Police might see the guitars on stage crumble to dust.
A topless basic bro in a pink bucket hat and glitter falls to the ground just behind me. Hey, it’s one of the first big outdoor gigs of the summer.
Brooklyn in the 2000s was a rad place to be. Especially when everyone stopped giving a shit that “hipster” had mutated into a derogatory term, collapsing into a puddle of whiskey shots, cheap cans of beer and overwrought indie rock.
The sonic boom of Get Innocuous and squelchy synths of Daft Punk Is Playing in My House act as a reminder that Murphy was that sardonic scene kingpin who made you’re hips sway.
He took energy from the Brooklyn art scene, entered the lab and created something to shake crowds at outdoor gigs. You can feel the minimal electronic arrangements here at their full power. On Daft Punk is Playing..., Murphy, down to his white tee, unleashes his cowbell because is it really an LCD Soundsystem gig if he doesn’t get the instrument out?
The frontman is in great voice too, evident on songs like Yr City’s A Sucker. Murphy reaches the outer borders of his distinct falsetto – a reminder that his larynx has been one the key sounds in over over the last couple of decades.
Congratulations on voting to trust your ladies.' It gets one of the loudest cheers
Elsewhere, the twin percussion attack he unleashes with Al Doyle on Yeah blitzes the senses. Murphy’s vocals blend with Nancy Whang’s to imbue Someone Great with the same emotive resonance it had always possessed.
Whang even helms a cover of Chic’s I Want Your Love because LCD Soundsystem want you to know they can do anything. The band feel close to maximum power.
As the sun sets and the disco ball over the band’s heads twinkles, nothing about the show feels incomplete. Murphy even shouts out recent history-making: “Congratulations on voting to trust your ladies.” It gets one of the loudest cheers.
The centrepiece of American Dream was How Do You Sleep? and it’s a highlight tonight. “Whatever fits in your pockets, you’ll get your due,” Murphy operatically fires in the direction of DFA Records co-founder Tim Goldsworthy in what must be the most vicious non-rap diss track since How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
Towards the end we get All My Friends, a song that over the years has seen me bury my head in my hands with emotion and jump around like a maniac in equal measure. I’ve taken no doomed narcotics and have consumed just a limited amount of alcoholic nectar tonight but I’m doing exactly the same thing.
The song becomes more powerful with each passing year. It’s still about that one hazy moment, “when the sun comes up, and I still don’t wanna stagger home”.
Really it’s about being super young and super wild and that’s fun to remember. In the crowd, countless friendships tighten. Arms are put around shoulders. 2018 won’t go down as being part of LCD Soundsystem’s most vital era, but nostalgia is cool, especially when you’re young enough for it to be a relatively new phenomenon in your life.
The show closes with the huge ballad New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, and Murphy clutching a giant digital clock as it ticks towards zero and the end of the show.
If only we could turn back time.