London, Alexandra Palace, 10/11/2010
The unmistakeable percussion that heralds the opening to ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ sputters to life on the wide stage of Alexandra Palace and moments later the gentle, shambling frame of James Murphy appears. His opening lines of ‘Walking up to me expecting words / Happens all the time’ ably summarise the lyrical concerns of the most touching of LCD Soundsystem songs. Failing to live up to other people’s expectations and notions of ‘cool’ is Murphy’s grand theme, from his first single (‘Losing My Edge’) to cuts from his latest record (‘You Wanted A Hit’). By the time the drill-like synth-line kicks in, the crowd is bouncing and a hundred guys cry out in unison as a hundred girls step on their feet in pointed heels. As Murphy sings, ‘This basement has a cold glow / Though it’s better than a bunch of others’ we get a sense of his alienation with the party and how all he really wants to do is head home, another perpetual theme of his that will manifest itself again and again over the course of the show.
The pulsating heart of LCD Soundsystem for me has always been ‘All My Friends’. It encapsulates the lonely and vulnerable emotional core of what I love about this band. The friends that I have come to this show with have slowly been dispersed throughout the large crowd, and we are all on our own, so to speak. Each of us is seeing the band from a different angle, with different strangers dancing beside us, and different pints being spilled on our clothes. Of course, this is all part of the gig experience and an active crowd is actually pretty indicative of a fun show. However, to me this also highlights the ultimate loneliness of the song. ‘Yeah, I know it gets tired only where are your friends tonight?’ Other lines are filled with self-loathing towards his inevitable ageing (‘With a face like a dad and a laughable stand’) and in comparison to the younger generation (‘When you’re drunk and the kids look impossibly tanned / You think over and over, “Hey, I’m finally dead.”’). On playing in a rock band at the age of forty, Murphy said in an interview with Pitchfork, ‘It’s like being an adult at an amusement park designed for kids. I’m like, “I can’t fit on any of these rides.”’ He seems to feel as though he is a fraud, and that his success is down to luck or an ability to deceive his audience. This lack of belief in one’s own competence is a fairly common psychological phenomenon, sometimes referred to as an ‘imposter syndrome’. This is most evident on the record label slam, ‘You Wanted A Hit’ (‘You wanted it smart? / But honestly we’re never smart / We fake it all the time.’)
The closing song is ‘Home’, the last song on the last album. If Murphy makes good on his statement to stop recording albums under the LCD Soundsystem moniker, ‘Home’ will prove a fitting epitaph. The ‘terrible times’ of trying to fit in to the hipster notions of cool in his youth has given way to the admission that ‘love and rock are fickle things’. He has come to terms with his own insecurities and embraces them as an integral part of himself. ‘You’re afraid of what you need / If you weren’t then I don’t know what we’d talk about’. As the final drum beats are being thrashed out and Murphy leaves the stage, it is time to find my friends in the crowd and go home.