(c) Photo by Kim van Winkel
Halfway LCD Soundsystem’s set, around the time they play ‘Movement’, I wonder what my expectations were. Something Great. Witnessing a special moment in space and time, the stuff of legends and strong stories. Something that wouldn’t just serve to make my friends jealous, but that would also set me apart from the people around me – an event that would make me a different kind of person, the way someone who ‘gets’ Twin Peaks is a different kind of person. And there’s certainly an air of legend in Paradiso, that night (the 11th of September, or 9/11, of all nights – and of course they play ‘New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’). It’s sold out, for starters, and after a slight warm-up the crowd is going for it, they’re dancing like they’re reliving their youth. Nay, the overwhelmingly male 30-somethings are re-living their youth. When LCD Soundsystem played their ‘goodbye’ concert in 2011, I was 16, meaning that This Is Happening is their only album I’ve consciously experienced. But the men in Paradiso tonight, they’ve seen it, they’ve been there, they were 16 and Daft Punk was playing at their house. And this creates an odd situation: on the one hand, LCD Soundsystem’s reunion can’t be quite the same legendary moment for me as it is for the people around me; but on the other hand, seeing those people there, and seeing them respond to James Murphy’s presence in the way they respond, that is part of the legend and I am there to be part of it.
It takes a while for the band – or are the eight musicians a ‘collective’? – to warm up. While the first half of the set has some highlights, such as ‘You Wanted a Hit’, by the end of which Murphy is already horse, or new-wavy new track ‘Call the Police’, there are also lulls, including the flat-falling opener ‘Yr City’s a Sucker’ and, despite its popularity among the older crowd, ‘Movement’. But as the first blips of ‘Someone Great’ become apparent from a carpet of synths (one of only a few breather moments for Murphy and band), I know it’s gonna get even better. After that song, Murphy announces that there will be four more songs for the main set, two oldies and two new ones, after which he will take a bathroom break (setting controls to the heart of the sun isn’t the only way they show their age anymore). The encore contains one new track and two older ones. By now, the fans know what’s to come, we know we’ve still got ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ and of course ‘All My Friends’, as well as the better songs of the new album. ‘American Dream’ and especially ‘Tonite’, which reminds me of The Cure’s repetitive, desparate ‘Disintegration’, seamlessly fit in with older, more familiar work. The material is simply that good, and despite the years LCD Soundsystem hasn’t changed that much. It is surprising, though, that only four of sixteen songs on the setlist are off their new album. This is clearly a reunion tour; it’s about giving the fans what they want. After the promised bathroom break (the applause is loud and long), we get one last new song, the elusive ‘Change Yr Mind’, and then it’s all feet off the floor for ‘Dance Yrself Clean’. LCD Soundsystem occupy an awkward position between dance act and indie rock band, but now it becomes abundantly clear they can do and even excel at both.
Then, ‘All My Friends’. I always thought I would be exhausted after hearing this live, knowing it would be their last song, but instead I feel energized and afterwards Kim and I go for a walk around our old school which is opposite Paradiso. Did I really listen to LCD Soundsystem when I was sixteen, when I didn’t even know Kim or when I just got to know her? Perhaps, but it’s not what I associate them with; my mind and music was elsewhere back then. Instead, it’s my second year at university, the Rad House, Rob, Kim, long nights of playing the best songs, and the summer after that, when Rob was visiting me in Amsterdam and we were sad and we played ‘All My Friends’ at 3am on the balcony of my living room. It’s been a classic ever since. Just a week ago, I was dancing along to the song with Kim at the silent disco at End of the Road. But here, now, in Paradiso, opposite my old school, the song doesn’t seem to be the highlight that it could be. I don’t seem to be ‘in the moment’, as it were, even though I’ve taken my single earplug out (I somehow forgot to bring the other). Maybe it’s our unfortunate position standing right next to the bar, behind a couple of tall Dutch guys. Maybe something’s bugging me, maybe the fact that I know this is the end has already brought the end about for me, and I’m elsewhere. In any case, the song feels like it’s over too soon and suddenly I’m waiting on a chair by the toilets in the basement for Kim and I hear a guy exclaiming to his friend: “that was FUCKING awesome”.
And it was. It was great. With experienced bands like LCD Soundsystem, things are always different. The lights are brighter; the sounds are clearer, and louder. Seeing LCD Soundsystem live wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, but it wasn’t worse for it. I wanted to be part of a special moment, and I got to be part of another equally special one. I expected this to be personal, but instead it turned out to be communal. It’s a bit like that other 9/11, sixten years ago, when I was 6 years old, and when I understood something important had happened – or at least, I understand now that back then I was there, here, alive, when the world changed – even though I’m not part of that generation exactly. Being there and not being there, being part of it and being outside of it. Perhaps in ten years time I will look back with a slight feeling of wonder. But now, the day after, I look back only with a feeling of excitement. It was after all, to paraphrase, Something Great.
-- Caspar Jacobs, September 13, 2017