LCD Soundsystem Pull Out the Stops for Epic Farewell Show

Rob Sheffield on the band ending their seven-year run as the planet's fiercest live act

Photograph by Brian Hineline for RollingStone.com
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"This is a very weird experience for us," James Murphy told the crowd. "We hope it will be a very weird experience for everybody." It was. LCD Soundsystem blew out their year-long farewell tour with a final hometown show that lasted 3 hours and 41 minutes, turning Madison Square Garden into a sweaty punk-disco rave, from the mosh pit to the nosebleed seats. How drunk were the drunk girls behind me in Section 301? Drunk enough to keep yelling for "Drunk Girls" after the band already played it? Drunk enough to sing "Drunk Girls" while the band played "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House"? Drunk enough to sing harmonies during the trombone-solo interlude? All of the above.

Photos: LCD Soundsystem's Last-Ever Show

The epic show was a celebration of LCD Soundsystem's six or seven-year run as the planet's fiercest live band. (It was six years to the day since the first time I saw them, at New York's Bowery Ballroom. They did Siouxsie's "Slowdive" that night.) It was a collossally ambitious arena rock show like no other, with a long middle section largely devoted to Murphy's techno opus 45:33, with a horn section, a choir, star turns from Reggie Watts and Shit Robot, and a psychedelic synth showcase featuring a silver-suited Juan MacLean, who looked like he was there to officiate the Brian Eno/Ace Frehley wedding. There wasn't the slightest worry about losing the audience during all of this – nobody left, got restless, or even sat down. (Any time I tried sitting down, the girls behind me would punch me and tell me to dance.) It was a tribute to Murphy's confidence that he tried something like this in a room the size of Madison Square Garden. But it was also a tribute to the passion of the audience they created.

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The whole LCD breakup remains mysterious, since James Murphy never really sat the fans down for the "James Murphy and music don't love each other any more" talk. There still hasn't been a coherent explanation for why this is happening, or what "splitting up" even means for a band this centered around one guy. Is Murphy retiring from show biz, or ditching this particular crew of musicians, or just changing brand names? Given the fact that LCD's last album, This Is Happening, was full of mid-life breakup songs, you could even suspect that the farewell tour was a smokescreen to keep the media distracted, so the band members would have something to chat about in interviews besides their miserable love lives. (If so, it worked.)

The key thing about LCD Soundsystem is that people always wanted this band to exist. For years, it was glaringly obvious that a band like this should exist, and people were impatiently waiting for them to show up. We all latched onto bands who had their fleeting proto-LCD moments, bands who got it right for a song or two at a time, perfectly fine bands like Pigbag or Delta 5 or Buffalo Daughter or Machine or Rhythm Heritage or Happy Mondays or A Certain Ratio or whoever. But it was LCD Soundystem that everyone was hungering for, and when they finally arrived in the early 2000s, after using the Rapture as an advance agent, there was a sense of finally. Like Pavement – with whom they have basically nothing else in common – LCD arrived on the scene as a seemingly effortless synthesis of countless other bands' best moments. Their 2005 debut album was already a greatest-hits collection, and yet their best songs were still ahead of them.

LCD Soundsystem managed to make their last-ever show an uplifting experience, cruising through classics like "All My Friends" and "Yeah" and "Us V. Them" – definitely one of the top ten LCD shows I've seen. (My all-time fave is still their Studio B gig of 5/12/2007. Or maybe their Music Hall gig last year.) "Someone Great" was a downer in this context – kind of like hearing the you-deserve-better speech while somebody's dumping you. ("There shouldn't be this radio silence," indeed.) But they revived their cover of Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire," brought out the Arcade Fire as surprise guests to add Canadian-cred vocals on "North American Scum" (they couldn't snag Rush?) and dropped a Daft Punk keyboard solo into "Losing My Edge." The show kept pumping for almost four hours – but nobody wanted to see it end. As the song goes, it keeps coming, and it keeps coming, and it keeps coming till the day it stops.

Set List
Dance Yrself Clean
Drunk Girls
I Can Change
Time To Get Away
Get Innocuous!
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
Too Much Love
All My Friends
Tired
45:33 Part 1
You Can't Hide
Sound Of Silver
45:33 Parts 4-6
Freak Out
Starry Eyes
Us V. Them
North American Scum
Bye Bye Bayou
You Wanted A Hit
Tribulations
Movement
Yeah

First encore
Someone Great
Losing My Edge
Home

Second encore
All I Want
Jump Into The Fire
New York I Love You