Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Strokes/LCD Soundystem - 4/1/2011 and 4/2/2011 - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY

Two of New York's once underground openers now mainstream megastars playing the same weekend at the world's most famous, yet very dated arena. What else is there to say?

Then comes Elvis Costello. The first surprise of a long weekend when he made a unplanned appearance before The Strokes set by playing three of his major hits including "Pump It Up" and "Radio Radio". He proclaimed, "Happy April Fool's Day!", and left the stage. Walking to our seats while he played I was immediately taken back by how loud he was playing. I had read that the sound at this famous venue was somewhat lacking, but even though it was very loud I thought the highs and lows were very well mixed and the vocals were understandable. More on this later.

With Costello off it was time for the main event. This would be my first time seeing The Strokes as I had unfortunately missed slim opportunities in years past as they bounced around Pittsburgh. The set started off with the title track of their debut album Is This It which slowly got the sold out crowd geared up for more. With a four album catalog in their bags they spread song coverage very efficiently hitting on all major points from the rest of their albums including their latest Angles. Most of the newer songs came off much better live including "Games", "Gratisfaction", and "Taken For a Fool" (with a little help from an other surprise visit from Costello), but the debut's heavy hitters really stole the show. "The Modern Age", "Last Night", and the rocking closing "Take It Or Leave It" provided the most response from the New York crowd.

On Saturday the scene was very similar yet completely different. Young hipsters dressed in all white, slim black ties, and wrinkled white dress shirts invaded Madison Square Garden for the final show ever by the indie dance punk band LCD Soundsystem. If you're waking from a coma I'm sorry to have had to tell you this news. For the rest of us who follow any interweb music sites this was the most hyped concert since the invention of Twitter or even Facebook.

Ticket bots and scalpers had bought up all the tickets leaving the kids empty handed. Walking up to the entrance the scalpers filled the gaps everywhere you looked making it abundant that the scalpers were indeed losing the battle. By the time LCD was about to take the stage I would guess that about two thirds of the arena was filled. Once on every space was filled. Guess the scalpers won the war after all.

Of course I was grateful to be there. Who wouldn't be? Unfortunately my seats weren't as good as they were for The Strokes and we were located in the South Press Box located between the 300 and 400 sections. I couldn't believe the sound difference between our two spots. It was clearly noticeable and as LCD assaulted through their first set I can't help to say that it really deterred my concert experience.

They started with three tracks straight off their 2010 effort This Is Happening then into a mixture from their self titled and Sound of Silver albums including a slightly remixed version of "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" sans a rumored appearance Daft Punk.

With that said, LCD Soundsystem then went on to play the longest concert I had ever witnessed of over three and a half hours. One could consider this a good thing, but during the second set progression through their mostly instrumental album 45:33 I grew tired and somewhat bored. I know, I know. This is the last show ever! They can do whatever they want, right? Yes they can, but for the none stimulated, more than average fan, the instrumentation was a little too much. If there was ever a time where the ecstatic crowd took a breather it was during this.

During their third and final set they got back to the basics which I fell in love with when I saw them at Coachella with songs like "Us vs Them", "Someone Great", and the most amazing live song ever "Losing My Edge". Oh, and members of Arcade Fire sang on "North American Scum". They are Canadian after all.

Lastly, they finished with the typical "New York I Love You, but You're Bringing Me Down" as James Murphy dramatized the song before the tied up white bands of balloons fell onto the sweaty and exhausted crowd. With that him and his band descended with hugs all around for backup singers, special guests (including Reggie Watts and his infamous air guitar), and Murphy's family members. A fitting end to the LCD Soundsystem long trek.

In an age where bands retire then reunite over and over I hope they do stay the course of actually staying retired. The music industry needs bands like this, but more importantly it needs bands who keep their word. Bands who aren't enticed by big pay days when the bank account starts running dry. Based on everything James Murphy has said up until this point there's no better person to echo these attributes. Let's hope this remains true.

Jonathon Puff