When it comes to delivering high art to several thousand paying customers, LCD Soundsystem are still outpacing the pack. The creative void of five years without touring (and seven years between albums) wasn't near enough time for anyone to catch up to the New York octet's dance grooves, punk intensity, and calculated rock 'n' roll positioning.
Coming into Thursday evening's performance at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, it helped that this year's LCD comeback album, American Dream, wasn't a flop. The record entered the age of augmented reality just as funky, unapologetic, and rich with timely lyrics as their previous genre-spanning works.
On the new, no-wave sendup "Emotional Haircut," frontman James Murphy reminded us, "You’ve got numbers on your phone of the dead that you can’t delete / And you got life-affirming moments in your past that you can't repeat." (On the second point: you can come awfully close if those life-affirming moments are polyrhythmic anthems engineered to make crowds go nuts.)
Stellar records aside, LCD's live show is the thing. (So much so, they made the 2014 live documentary, The Long Goodbye.) The intricate material already sounds like it's difficult to perform, and then they further tweak the songs' DNA onstage. Case in point, the 12-year-old smash "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" got refitted with an entirely new rhythmic chassis, and still purred.
This is Happening highlight "I Can Change" found Murphy capturing his most beautiful vocals of the night. A bit of an anti-frontman, he was dressed in a quality sport jacket and sipping red wine, but never let himself or the rest of us get too comfortable. "You’re gonna lose all the blood in your arms if you hold your phone up the whole time," he half-jokingly admonished a fan at one point.
You could also probably write an entire LCD Soundsystem concert review based upon the blinding morse code of the strobe lights all night long. The American Dream opener "Oh Baby" – featuring a bass line recalling the spooky Twin Peaks theme – set the tone for the repeated sensory overload to come. Whenever a large disco ball painted the Roy in stardust, the room felt huge and intimate at the same time.
As comfortable as Murphy and company seemed performing their new material, breathing new life into the familiar bones of songs came equally naturally. "Get Innocuous!" remained undeniable, four-on-the-floor gold, and drummer Pat Mahoney was completely in the pocket for "Someone Great." The night's closer, Krautrock-meets-Springsteen moment "All My Friends" captured the vibe of a reception at a spare-no-expense wedding.
But of all the night's stadium-sized moments crammed into an auditorium, "Call the Police" was the keeper. The song laid out our country's current fearful state, and the increasing tension between the powerful and the weak ("We don't waste time with love") played out as a fusion of musical styles. Eventually, the frantic energy exploded, and the lights strobed like a ring of cop cars filling up an intersection. Equally horrifying and beautiful, there was no final answer, no resolution, and no way out.
Daft Punk Is Playing at My House
I Can Change
Call the Police
You Wanted a Hit
Change Yr Mind
I Want Your Love (Chic song)
New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends