Madison Square Garden, New York Saturday, April 2
James Murphy’s band bow out in his home city in spectacular style, with a marathon farewell set that features guest stars galore, balloons, and a decade-defining dance party
This is our last song,” James Murphy tells the audience three-and-a-half hours into his final blowout. When the crowd responds with some playful booing, [a]LCD Soundsystem[/a]’s burly, middle-aged frontman sets them straight: “OK, let me point this out. I didn’t say, ‘This is our last song’ so you would go, ‘Oh, no!’ THIS IS OUR LAST SONG!” This time the crowd responds with raucous, bittersweet cheers. The band have encouraged their fans to dress in black and white, as if for a funeral, but the vibe tonight is closer to an Irish wake: boozy, joyous, exhausting, a little bit sad but ultimately celebratory.
From the opening chords of [b]‘Dance Yrself Clean’[/b] through the last, lingering piano notes of the night’s swansong, [b]‘New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down’[/b] nearly four hours later, the fans barely leave their feet. The band is swelled for the night to a 25-piece behemoth, complete with a horn section, backing choir and merry-go-round of special guests. Reggie Watts, Shit Robot and Planningtorock all make an appearance, but when members of [a]Arcade Fire[/a] materialise to sing back-up on [b]‘North American Scum’[/b], even the most jaded cool kids lose their shit as Murphy clings desperately to his microphone like a doughy [a]James Brown[/a], flinging out more cowbell than Christopher Walken could handle.
LCD have always favoured crescendos, each song building and building until a cathartic climax is reached. But tonight that build is extrapolated, like some sort of Mandelbrot set: just as each song grows, so too does the show. In a sense, the band’s career has been a crescendo, swelling from a seemingly ironic one-off to arguably the rockingest live band in the world. And as each song passes, you can’t help shake the sense that LCD’s whole catalogue – with its themes of ageing, loss and fellowship – was designed with this show in mind: songs such as [b]‘All My Friends’[/b] (“This could be the last time/So here we go/Like a sales force into the night”) or [b]‘Someone Great’[/b] (“What are the options/When someone great is gone?”) take on an added poignancy.
Has a band ever gone out on a note quite so stratospheric as LCD Soundsystem? They defined the last decade of New York rock’n’roll more fully than any other (including the guys who took the same stage the night before) and here they are, playing their biggest gig ever at the hometown venue that calls itself “the world’s most famous arena”. The closest parallel is probably fellow New Yorker Jay-Z, who bid farewell at the top of his game with a special-guest-laden Madison Square Garden blowout in 2003.
Jay, of course, came back just a few years later. And as the final notes of [b]‘New York I Love You…’[/b] drift into the night, and a canopy of white balloons descend from the MSG rafters, there isn’t a fan in the crowd who doesn’t hope Murphy follows Jay’s lead and turns retirement into a mere intermission.