Seven Years Ago, When LCD Soundsystem Last Played Dallas, It Barely Filled Half The Palladium. But Monday Night At The Bomb Factory Was A Different Story.
All photos by Jonathan Zizzo.
History has been rewritten. And I can prove it, too.
Here’s how: Ask anyone who was at last night’s packed, sold-out LCD Soundsystem show at The Bomb Factory when they first became a fan of the band. Think any of them will cop to it being timed with the release of this year’s American Dream LP, the band’s fourth-released and, at best, its second-worst album? No, of course not. They’ll tell you they’ve been fans for years — and they certainly won’t act as if they only got on board with the James Murphy train in the wake of his band’s retirement in 2011.
But just seven months before the band announced its “last” show at Madison Square Garden, which famously sold out in just 10 minutes, the band performed here in Dallas and couldn’t even draw 2,000 people to its June 9, 2010, show at the 3,500-capacity Palladium Ballroom (now South Side Ballroom) — a show that came right at the peak of the band’s critical acclaim, only a month removed from the release of that year’s This Is Happening, the album that would ostensibly cement LCD Soundsystem’s legacy.
What changed over the course of those seven years? Beyond the fact that Murphy, whose lyrics long revealed him to be a savvy critic of music consumption and deceitful artistic idolatry, played everyone like fools?
Somewhere along the way, Murphy’s brand of irony turned so post-ironic that it became sincere. Lyrics that once lampooned underground music’s lack of authenticity gave way to ones that lament the authenticity missed when it was right in front of your eyes.
Murphy’s performances too reflect this change: Whereas LCD Soundsystem’s earlier live sets were built upon an over-the-top self-awareness, last night’s display at The Bomb Factory succeeded in large part due to the fact that it had the audacity to take itself seriously. While he has always surrounded himself with musicians capable of covering his deficiencies and executing his vision, last night found the 47-year-old Murphy finally on par with his players. In front of a sea of bodies watching his every move and on a stage-as-pedestal filled with enough gear to make a Guitar Center sweat, he came off as a confident maestro, a passionate howler and a poet that has long since surpassed the point of hiding his sentiments behind any guarded airs.
A carefully curated set list further hammered this home. Revered snotty anthems like “North American Scum” and “Losing My Edge” were eschewed in favor of the emotional daggers that are “Someone Great” and the night-closing “All My Friends.”
Even Murphy’s few asides over the course of LCD Soundsystem’s two-and-a-half hour set — which followed a pulsating opening set from Big Freedia, New Orleans’ unquestioned Queen of Bounce, as part of a night that remarkably never once dragged — felt genuine. Before launching into the impossibly cathartic “Dance Yrself Clean,” a song for which The Bomb Factory’s ample speaker set-up was seemingly built, Murphy noted the fact that it was a Monday night and that many out in the crowd likely had responsibilities to tend to come morning, but implored that they let loose and continue to join him in embracing the moment wholeheartedly, just as they had been doing all night long.
“We’re all gonna die,” he said in his plea, coming across as more reasonable than reckless. And of tomorrow’s obligations? “It’s just work.”
There’s a difference between being too cool for school and being present enough to push aside life’s stresses. And though it may have taken Murphy almost five decades on this planet to reconcile that fact and understand that social commentary needn’t always be scathing — realizations that his growing crowd sizes would indicate that he was behind the curve on learning — well, better late than never.
Is it ironic that a band that rose to fame on irony would reach its adoration zenith when committing to sincerity? Probably.
Is it surprising? Hardly.
Does any of that really matter? No.
Because history, as we all know, is written by the winners. And LCD Soundsystem’s performance last night at The Bomb Factory? It was nothing short of triumphant.