Great Expectations: The Return of LCD SoundsystemPhoto by Jeff Gonick Music Reviews LCD Soundsystem
It’s Monday night and LCD Soundsystem should be going on any minute now, continuing their comeback with the second of a two night test-run at Webster Hall. I’m quick-sipping a lukewarm Bud Light both to pass the time, and to smooth the anxious edge that comes with going to a show alone in your mid-thirties, on a Monday. If it were on a Tuesday, I’d at least be able to annoy my fiancé by repeatedly reminding her with the chorus of “On a Tuesday.” But it’s not. It’s on a Monday.
And while it’s Monday and people are watching Netflix and maybe even ‘chilling’ in the rest of the world, in Webster Hall it might as well be New Year’s Eve. The crowd is already swaying with the silent beat of their collective buzz, the floors are already stickier than a frat party basement at 3AM, and the vaporizers which seem to be almost as abundant as iPhones, are already adding their thin fuzzy haze to the night.
A sound guy walks on stage to check a mic and a low cheer cascades through the crowd. A few minutes later somebody drops a water bottle off by the drums and people celebrate like they’ve got stock in Poland Spring. This isn’t just anticipation, these people have lucked, begged, bought, bargained or in my case convinced an editor to send them to witness a resurrection. To watch one of their favorite bands come back from the dead. And this room is alive with expectations of not just when, but how it’s going to go down.
To a certain degree, bands are defined by expectations. We don’t just expect them to perform the best show we’ve ever seen every night, to produce music often enough to satisfy our insatiable, bordering on unhealthy appetite for media, to entertain us with access to the most intimate moments of their life. We see their best and worst moments replayed and analyzed like the Zapruder film. We spend hours listening to strangers pick them apart on podcasts. We fall headlong into the abyss that is online comments. And we end up creating a narrative in our heads about who they are. Their lives become another TV show to us. And like our favorite shows, we build up our expectations about not only what will, but what should happen next.
So when LCD Soundsystem quit at what some might call the pinnacle of their ten year career, they George R.R. Martin’d us. They killed themselves off in the second act. And the same way George changed the rules when it came to who was safe and who wasn’t by killing off Ned Stark, LCD changed the rules on us. They let us know that no matter how much we might love their band, our love isn’t the only thing they live for. That LCD isn’t a permanent thing we should always expect to be there. And that if their band is going to exist, it’s going to exist on their terms.
Which is why as James Murphy and the rest of the band came out on stage to hand-bruising applause and throat-shredding cheers, as the cymbal smacking beat of Get Innocuous! opened the show, as the air filled with the diluted weed smell of electric drug-pens, I put my notebook away and didn’t try to think of ways to compare this moment to my expectations for it. I didn’t saddle this show with the weight of the ones I missed. Or look at this performance through the lens of all the years I wish they’d been playing. I didn’t try and understand last night in the context of when they left. Or try to create some narrative that connects leaving to coming back. I didn’t even try to force-fit the whole experience into some larger point about their legacy.
I tried, hard as it sometimes is in a world where we’re all supposed to share our opinions about everything, to just have fun. To embrace the crushed toes and spilled beer and accidental elbows during “Daft Punk is Playing at my House”. To laugh about how real “Losing My Edge” suddenly feels with the thirty-something record-head beside me. To jump up and down like an extra in a House of Pain video during “Dance Yrself Clean”. To enjoy how loud and drunk and crowded and sweaty and messy and imperfect the whole thing was.
I tried to let the music do what it’s supposed to do. Not spark twitter feuds, inspire podcast speculations or create fodder for overly wordy think-pieces, but make us feel something that’s bigger than what a song means. I tried to listen to James Murphy when he said during one of the few catch-your-breath breaks to not worry about filming every second of every song, but to “Just be here.”
I tried do something maybe we should all do this time around. Throw out our expectations and enjoy the moment while it lasts, no matter how long it lasts.
Set List – Webster Hall – 3.28.16
Daft Punk is Playing at my House
I Can Change
Us v Them
You Wanted a Hit
Sound of Silver
45:33 part 4 (Out in Space)
Losing My Edge
New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends