Dancing Yourself Clean

In the world of live music, there are several different kinds of concerts. Last week’s sold-out LCD Soundsystem show fell into the most prestigious category, that of the best kind of concert, the kind of show you leave with a goofy grin plastered across your face. As I wandered toward the Park Street T station on my way out I was drenched with sweat and rain, and as I looked back on my night, I realized that LCD Soundsystem had just put on one of those “I was there” types of shows.

The opener, Sleigh Bells, arrived on stage right on time, but their audience was almost nowhere to be found. It didn’t seem to faze the hard rock-pop group made up of Alexis Krauss on lead vocals and Derek Miller on guitar, with an iPod providing the beats. The band delivered an intense but predictable opening set, one nearly identical to their stint at M.I.A.’s “HARD NYC” in July. Their set was fantastic, covering almost every song on their debut album Treats, but when you boil it down, their live act is a bit skimpy. Krauss has a perfectly lovely voice and a stellar stage presence, but sometimes Miller’s soulful but guttural guitar swallowed her vocals up, forcing her to howl like a banshee. On softer songs like “Rill Rill,” Krauss stood out. But on numbers like the actual-heart-pounding “Crown on the Ground,” her phrasing turns into a muddled string of words. I really look forward to watching Sleigh Bells in the future because the band is really a fresh and exhilarating one to see live, and it’s clear to see that its members still have a lot of musical maturing to do.

Following a brief intermission, a steady stream of people trickled onto the stage one by one, all positioning themselves in a sort of semicircle around a microphone in the middle of the stage. As the opening drums and synthesizers jumpstarted “Dance Yrself Clean,” one of the standout singles on the band’s newest album, This is Happening, James Murphy slid onto stage sheepishly glancing at the overwhelmingly uproarious crowd. The lead singer of LCD Soundsystem, Murphy grabbed the microphone and closed his eyes as he pensively half sang, half talked “talking like a jerk / except you are an actual jerk and living proof / that sometimes friends are mean.” The band harmonized on a series of “oohs and aahs” and suddenly the drums kicked in full force as Murphy took hold of his synthesizer and let loose a stream of thumping, tinny notes, wailing passionately, “I miss the way the night comes / with friends who always make it feel good.” Glancing around at the audience, it was impossible to spot a soul who wasn’t dancing like his or her life depended on it. Bodies were pulsating and thrashing, undulating like a collective wave of techno-joy as Murphy and his band filled the Orpheum with their sweet, sweet music. As the song drew to a close, I had genuine chills. If this was how LCD Soundsystem chose to start its concert, there was no telling what the band had in store for Boston.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, which flew by faster than any concert I’ve had the pleasure to attend, LCD Soundsystem reinterpreted its greatest hits in electrifying and lush ways that made them even more intoxicating. The audience literally squealed with delight as Murphy and his band mates (including Hot Chip’s Al Doyle, substituting for regular bassist Tyler Pope, out on new-daddy duty) powered their way through classics like “Tribulations” and, of course, the band’s biggest song, “Daft Punk is Playing at My House.” Unlike Sleigh Bells, LCD doesn’t have a backing track for any of its live songs, so Murphy and the band were able and ready to improvise as they saw fit. Insane drum solos ensued, but some of the most exciting improvising came from Murphy’s right-hand woman, Nancy Whang, who was a true whirlwind of musical energy on the stage. As she dashed around from synthesizer to drums to keyboard while songs like “Drunk Girls” and “Yr City’s a Sucker” throbbed in the background, Whang barely batted an eyelash as she took control of the harmonies. As the temperature in the ancient Orpheum reached near catastrophic heights, people doused in sweat carried on furiously dancing like it was cool and breezy. Coming back for an encore of (my personal favorite) “Someone Great,” the Lou Reed inspired “Losing My Edge,” and “Home,” Murphy and company never let their energy diminish for even half a second. Their time onstage was, for both them and us, pure euphoria.

A huge rumor circulating around this tour is that Murphy is treating it as his last, and to this I must give protest. I would understand his wanting to take some time off. Even if This is Happening serves as a bookend to a glorious trilogy of albums by the band, I could handle that. What I can’t deal with is never seeing LCD Soundsystem in concert again. To James Murphy: Take all the time you need, but when you come back around, I’ll be ready to dance myself clean in a heartbeat.


October 3, 2010