LCD Soundsystem's Final Show @ Madison Square Garden (New York City, NY 4/2/11)
April 04, 2011

Dance Yrself Clean
Drunk Girls
I Can Change
Time to Get Away
Get Innocuous!
Daft Punk Is Playing at My House
Too Much Love
All My Friends
45:33 Part One
45:33 Part Two
Sound of Silver
45:33 Part Four
45:33 Part Five
45:33 Part Six
Freak Out/Starry Eyes
Us v Them
North American Scum
Bye Bye Bayou
You Wanted a Hit
Yeah (Crass Version)
Someone Great
Losing My Edge
All I Want
Jump into the Fire
New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down

Why I haven’t gotten around to seeing LCD Soundsystem is beyond me. “All My Friends,” which came out when I was still in high school, is one of the songs that shaped me into the music fan that I am today, and the band currently sits among my most highly regarded and all-time favorites. James Murphy’s distinct brand of slow-burning, carefully layered composition is exhilarating, and his nostalgic songwriting is among the best in the industry, as far as I’m concerned. They’re an incredibly unique band in the emotions they draw from their fans; you could be moved to tears while dancing your ass off. So it’s a pity that Murphy and his band are calling it quits, and needless to say, their decision to hold one last show at Madison Square Garden this last weekend was a big deal, not just to the underground/hipster music industry, but to myself, as this was my last chance to see them live.

Unfortunately, the show earned quite a stir when tickets went on sale and scalpers snatched up a large portion of them, charging outrageous prices. I was lucky enough to get tickets directly from the presale, but Murphy’s anger over his fans not being able to attend forced him to add four more dates at Terminal 5 during the preceding week. So the “one last show” concept turned into a week-long party, but the MSG gig was still slated to be their last performance ever, making it unlike anything I or my friends had ever attended. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it lived up to my expectations in that it was the best concert I’ve ever been to and one of the most memorable nights of my life.

James promised a set running nearly three hours that spanned LCD’s entire career and featured special guests. In reality, the show was over three and a half hours long and divided into three acts and one encore, with short breaks in between each. Without having seen LCD live before, I’m willing to say that this was their most extravagant set of all time, with an enormous light setup, male and female backup singers, and a brass section. It was a full-on production, and added with the epic length of the show and the sheer size of the place – LCD has never played a venue as big as MSG – I couldn’t have imagined the band going out on a higher note.

The great thing about the show’s length was that it allowed them to play all of the old favorites and still left some flexibility to play material that they’re rarely, if ever, had the chance to perform live. Much of the first act was devoted to popular singles – “Drunk Girls,” “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,” etc. – but they still took the time to hit up unexpected tracks like “Too Much Love” and “Tired.” When the lights initially dimmed, the band members slowly took the stage, one by one, to the opening drum beat of “Dance Yrself Clean,” a song with an almost unbearably tense buildup. But when the song finally erupted (anyone who’s familiar with it knows what I mean) and glowrings were fired into the crowd, the place went nuts.

One of the biggest surprises of the first act was the decision to play “All My Friends.” I’d heard that they tend to play that song early on, which always puzzled me; it’s such a showstopper that I couldn’t imagine them playing it at any point but the end. Having finally seen it live, I’m guessing that they prefer to play “All My Friends” while the audience still has their energy. By the end of the show, nearly four hours after we’d started, we were exhausted. Yet the song’s placement at the end of the first act gave us just enough warm-up time to go ballistic when we heard the piano kick in. The place went berserk for the whole song, particularly when Murphy sang, “To tell the truth, this will be the last time!” It was an overwhelming performance that should have been the standout moment of the night, but the show was only a fraction over.

In the second act came the biggest surprise of the evening: that the band would play the “45:33” jam nearly in its entirety. For those who don’t know, “45:33” was a six-art song created as a promotional track for Nike to be used during workout sessions. Murphy has since hinted that he more or less used the opportunity to create a long-form, largely instrumental composition with little regard for how well the music worked for jogging. To my knowledge, “45:33” had never been played live before last week, which is part of what made it so exhilarating to watch.

The band did skip over “Part Three,” probably because the track eventually became the blueprint for “Someone Great,” and it would have been redundant to play both in one show. Instead, after “Part Two,” the band took a break from the song and launched into “Sound of Silver,” sung by a male choir fitted with silver spacesuits. It sounded excellent and ended with a slow transition into “Part Four,” which was an absolutely beastly live song.

The second act also brought about most of the night’s biggest guest appearances, such as singer/comedian Reggie Watts singing soul in “Part Two.” And Shit Robot showed up for “Part Five,” as well as Juan MacLean in a spacesuit and a diamond-shaped UFO:

I don’t even know what the fuck.

They ended the second act with “Freak Out/Starry Eyes,” the double-song that concludes the 45:33 release. The former had a fun shout-along chorus (“If you do it again! I’m gonna freak out! So do it again!”), while the latter made the three female backup singers the center of attention. The third act was when LCD finally started punching through their big hits and old favorites again. They took the stage to “US v Them,” during which they finally and inevitably dropped the big disco ball:

And then came the most exciting quest appearance of the night: Arcade Fire doing backing vocals for “North American Scum.” They didn’t even have a big entrance or anything. Despite the massive set, James Murphy’s chatter in between songs was endearingly awkward and unshowmanlike, and when Arcade Fire took the stage, very little attention was actually drawn to them until their faces popped up on the big screen, at which point the place went nuts. They looked thrilled to be there.

In my mind, the biggest showstopper of the night was the one-two punch of “You Wanted a Hit” into “Tribulations.” The former was unbelievably intense, with the live guitar adding a lot of momentum to the mass-chant-along chorus (“We won’t be your babies anymore!”). Then the drummer transitioned into “Tribulations” and the crowd went absolutely off the chain. LCD is largely an electronic band, so seeing them do a straight-up rock song and absolutely kill it was a huge adrenaline rush, and I’m willing to bet playing that song in Madison Square Garden was the high point of the guitarist’s entire life. A drunk girl in front of us flashed us during the song and I can honestly say it was the least concerned with female nakedness I’ve ever been in my entire life.

The rest of the night played out predictably but beautifully, with all of the expected hits: “Movement,” “Yeah,” “Someone Great,” and Murphy’s crazy spoken-word single “Losing My Edge,” during which all of the referenced artists were shown on the giant screen. The final song of their main set was “Home,” the last track from This Is Happening and, if you ask me, the best and most fitting swan song by any band, ever. I would have been totally happy if the show had ended there, but then the band came back on for an encore, at which point Murphy announced that they still had three more songs. I was overjoyed to finally hear “All I Want,” though most of the crowd was getting tired by that point.

The last song of the night, as we’d all anticipated, was “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down.” The song’s general slowness allowed Murphy to talk and squeeze in his final thank-yous in between verses as he fought back tears. It’s one of LCD’s few hold-up-your-lighter songs, and a friend and I, being non-smokers, elected to sneak into an unoccupied tech booth and wave a lamp back and forth. The band took a long pause before the song’s emotionally-charged final stretch, during which white balloons were released into the crowd.

Aside from a few lyrical mess-ups on Murphy’s part (and he had a long week, so that’s perfectly understandable), the band sounded as good as they could have and I can’t have imagined them putting on a better show or constructing a better setlist. My only complaint about the concert was the crowd. The people on the floor seemed to be having a blast, but a good portion of the audience around me was either disappointingly unenergetic or obnoxiously drunk. My friends and I were dancing our asses off and I’m disappointed that more people didn’t seem to realize where they were, especially since there were plenty of diehard fans who couldn’t make it to the show who I know would have made the atmosphere better. This was my first time attending a show in New York City and I’ll definitely be sticking with Philly unless the circumstances demand otherwise, as they did here.

But I didn’t let that stop me from having a good time, and this was, bar none, the greatest show I’ve ever been to, a once-in-a-lifetime event that could never be replicated. I had to drive three hours afterward and didn’t get home until five-thirty in the morning, yet I went to bed the happiest man alive. For one night, I was a part of musical history.

My entire set of pictures from Saturday, including our journey through New York City beforehand, can be found here. And check out this video I took of James saying his tearful goodbyes before the final song:

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