LCD Soundsystem, YACHT
Birmingham 02 Academy
26th April 2010
If I could have been at one show in the history of popular music it would not have been Jimi at Woodstock nor Dylan going electric nor The Who at Leeds nor Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (for numerous reasons). No, I have always thought that the best show in the history of popular beat combos and the one I would most like to go to if and when they invent time travel, would be Talking Heads on their Stop Making Sense tour. Their energy is electric, David Byrne is fascinating and by the end of it there is not one person left in their seat and as they finish with ‘Cross-eyed and Painless’ there is not a molecule in that auditorium that is still managing to keep from dancing to the beat. It looks like the most fun ever and it saddens me deeply that I missed it by being far too young, and I have always been on the look out for a band that could match that in some way.
So when I discovered LCD Soundsystem I felt a twinge of excitement. Here was a group making music to dance to but that was still infused with the spirit of punk. Their front man and maestro, James Murphy, was unassuming, looked nothing like a pop star and muttered his quirky lyrics hysterically over the music often erupting into big choruses that made you feel at one with the world. And they were working out of New York. As far as I was concerned this was as close as I was going to get to Talking Heads and so I carelessly enraged my bank manager by spending money I didn’t have to go to this show, hoping that it might recapture the high point of the Heads’ live legacy.
A couple of things seem to be conspiring against me to thwart my high expectations, not least the over-the-top, weird for the sake of it visual dance duo YACHT who open the show with tunes that should have me moving but due to the slightly irritating nature of their performance (which wouldn’t be out of place in a drag act) and of their songs, they fail in this respect although they warm up some elements of the crowd. Other elements need something more I realise as I order a beer from the bar crammed in next to two cackling women who are ingesting pills with their vodkas and spicing up their Monday night chemically in the absence of anything that makes them feel euphoric on the stage.
But when LCD take to that stage to the deep bass rumblings of the introduction to ‘Get Innocuous!’ there is a huge surge of excitement and when it kicks in there are a variety of dance moves being pulled in the crowd, from two step shuffling to full on pogoing which translates the crossover nature of this electro-post-punk outfit wonderfully. ‘Us vs Them’ maintains the energy and breakthrough single ‘Daft Punk Is Playing at My House’ is thrilling, but then Murphy hits me with what could potentially be a second, more crushing blow to my high hopes.
“I’ve had a fever which I thought I was over, but I’m not sure I am. Thanks for giving me the fever.”
I expect him to apologise and leave the stage but instead he simply removes a layer of clothing and soldiers on like a trooper. Everything is go for launch and launch we do. Whilst the band are perhaps not as animated as Talking Heads in the early eighties, adopting a kind of distanced cool, they are all working hard and breaking a sweat, but it is nothing in comparison to us in the audience who are leaking energy and enthusiasm so much that it is dripping from the very high ceiling inside the venue. There is a magical moment when they drop into my current favourite from the new record, ‘Pow Pow’, which is as close to Talking Heads at their peak as anyone is likely to come, and the disco ball suddenly creates a mesmerising display, shafts of light cutting through the dry ice, and I am reminded of raves I have attended in my younger years. Wherever the ladies were who had dropped their pills at the bar, I know they are having an immense time.
In fact, magical moments are in abundant supply, perhaps most touchingly during the finale of the unrelenting drive of ‘All My Friends’ when a quick glance all around me finds numerous groups friends, arm in arm, eyes closed, head back and singing along to every word. It reminds me of how much music can mean to people and I am happy to be sharing the moment with them and my best friend, or rather, my girlfriend, and we have a bit of a smoochy dance moment, but that’s all you need to hear about that.
After what seems a relatively short time (but is in fact 11 songs) Murphy finally gives in to his fever and, clutching a bottle of champagne, leaves the stage. It is touch and go whether there will be an encore, but I am impressed and grateful for his professionalism and dedication as he strides bravely back on for another four songs. By this point we have managed to take advantage of the early leavers and squeeze a little bit closer to the front where we are treated to enthusiastic renditions of ‘Losing My Edge’ and ‘Someone Great’. From our new position we can see the sweat sparkle on the band’s faces and saw how much they put into the performance.
For a band that is all about parties they close on a poignant moment beginning with new song ‘All I Want’, which has the same feel to it as David Bowie’s classic, ‘Heroes’ and a stunning, bombastic version of ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ which merges into ‘Empire State of Mind’ before finishing off with one more explosive chorus.
It wasn’t Stop Making Sense, and perhaps nothing ever will be, but they gave it a damned good try for me and in spite of illness which would have been horrible to overcome for a 90 minute plus set, Murphy and co. delivered a show that was full of euphoric moments, highly charged energy and dance floor fillers. I imagine afterwards the band would have perhaps had a nice rest instead of the usual after-show party, and they well deserved it. I’m almost thankful that they were toned down; a fully fit LCD Soundsystem might have blown my hips off, and nobody is prepared for that on a Monday evening.
2.Us v Them
3.Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
4.Yr City’s a Sucker
7.All My Friends
8.I Can Change
13.Losing My Edge
14.All I Want
15.New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down