Regular Joes making music, that’s LCD Soundsystem’s deal, and for a band that most would term “electronic,” they sure managed to create that dancey vibe while putting on a legitimate rock show.
I might venture to call Saturday night the first night of fall, at least the first night that really felt it, anyway. It was crisp, and I worried that my thin jacket might not be enough to keep me warm, as we were about to see LCD Soundsystem outdoors at the Charlottesville Pavilion on what they’re calling their final tour.
Fall, you are many things, but you are no match for over a thousand cheerful, amateur dancers. The tented pavilion with its graded cement floor became a heated, bubbling dance hall as soon as LCD band members began to pick up their instruments and set the first song, “Dance Yrself Clean,” into motion. All temperature concerns were immediately dissolved.
The brainchild of James Murphy, the band’s composer and singer and not so much “frontman” as he is “whole man,” LCD Soundsystem has several rumored rules that pertain to their live performances. Among them: don’t put any sounds on the recording that you can’t replicate on-stage, and don’t posture like you’re a rock star when you’re replicating them. Regular Joes making music, that’s LCD’s deal, and for a band that most would term “electronic,” they sure managed to create that dancey vibe while putting on a legitimate rock show.
Their genuine quality was made more striking when juxtaposed with the performance by opening band and overnight sensation, Sleigh Bells. Having grown so fast from a side project to a hip dance sensation, it’s hard to imagine that Sleigh Bells has had time to craft a compelling stage presence, but as it is, the spastic bouncing of vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek E. Miller, both backed by a PA, felt like watching someone you don’t know sing karaoke. Actually, that’s a little too generous. I’ve felt more engaged during meetings with my accountant.
But Murphy et al looked real, played real instruments, and generated some real enthusiasm from the crowd. Skipping the ballads to present instead a string of smoothly connected steady beats, even the band couldn’t escape the fever, and everyone on stage eventually began to join in the crowd’s “move however you wanna and don’t worry about how dumb you look” philosophy.
Every song was effective, with the possible exception of the surprisingly flat version of the band’s first single, “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,” but to me, the standouts were “Tribulations,” “Someone Great,” and “Yeah,” at which point the giant mirror ball that had been taunting us all night was finally lowered and set to stun.
If Murphy seemed a little amazed at playing such an unlikely venue, I was a little amazed myself at just about everything, due to the involuntary contact high I ended up contracting. But even through the haze of pot smoke, Murphy looked enthusiastic enough to keep constructing his fairly elaborate songs for us for another couple of hours. Alas, after one encore set, the pavilion lights came on and we all had to look each other in the face and own up to the weird contortions we’d just put our bodies through.
Oh well, we have the memories at least. Farewell, LCD Soundsystem!
(LCD Soundsystem released its third album, This Is Happening, earlier this year on DFA Records. To start at the beginning, check out 2005’s self-titled debut and 2007’s Sound of Silver, my personal favorite.)