At the start of each performance during LCD Soundsystem’s epic ten-night stand at Bushwick’s Brooklyn Steel, a giant disco ball descends from the rafters, signifying that a party is beginning, one fans won’t likely forget. But by December 17, 2017, the fifth show of the series, singer James Murphy was already having trouble remembering which night it was. “Hi, everybody, welcome to show four!” he said, quickly correcting himself: “Show five!” Murphy was recovering from the flu, calling the opening night performance a week before some of the worst singing he’s ever done. The band had already played two residencies at Brooklyn Steel this year, consisting of seven shows in June and five in April respectively. But this marathon stand in the middle of flu season would mark the band’s longest consecutive run yet. Ten nights of sweaty, dance-happy rapture can take a toll on anyone, let alone a group of middle-aged hipsters.
The Brooklyn Steel shows cap a landmark year for Murphy and his cohorts, who hijacked New York’s music scene more than a decade ago and then seemingly walked away forever in what Murphy decided would be their final show on April 2, 2011, at Madison Square Garden. He believed that bands were often only good for three solid records, and he’d made three classics: LCD Soundsystem in 2005, Sound of Silver in 2007, and This Is Happening in 2010. Once Murphy had made up his mind, that was it. This nearly four-hour swan song was chronicled in the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, as an enthusiastic crowd mourned the loss of a band that had the ability to bring together punk rockers, indie kids, and, generally, anyone seeking a good time.
While the band was broken up, Murphy got married, had a son, made his own Blue Bottle Coffee blend called House of Good, opened Williamsburg wine bar the Four Horsemen, co-produced Arcade Fire’s fourth studio album, Reflektor, and lent percussion to David Bowie’s Blackstar. He was busy.
Then, in 2015, rumors began circulating that there’d be some sort of LCD reunion. On March 27, 2016, it happened at Webster Hall, as the band played its first show in almost five years before going on to headline festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo. Before long, they were back in the studio working on their fourth album, American Dream, which was released in September. For Murphy — along with current members Pat Mahoney, Nancy Whang, Tyler Pope, Al Doyle, Gavin Rayna Russom, Matt Thornley, and Korey Richey — these latest Brooklyn dates are something of a Christmas homecoming.
At last Sunday’s show, a familiar announcement came after Murphy’s energetic performance of “Yr City’s a Sucker,” punctuated by “ha-ha-ha-ha”s and accompanying hand gestures: “If you’re in this general swath, take a picture now then put your phone away. If you just need evidence you were here, do it … and unless you’re a grandmother, turn your fucking flash off. Learn how to use your phone, or Nancy will have to talk to you about it.” Whang chimed in, pointing out individuals and telling them to do the same while Murphy sipped from a glass of red wine.
The crowd seemed to take the hint, and from the start — a one-two punch of “Get Innocuous!” followed by “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” — the entire floor swayed under the relentless disco ball. The band tore through “Tribulations” and “Movement.”, before Murphy donned his suit jacket for “Someone Great,” only to take it off as soon as the track faded out. The wave of collective euphoria kept building through two tracks off American Dream, “Change Yr Mind” and “Tonite,” before finally cresting when the band returned for the encore and launched into the shimmering “Oh Baby.”
“I told you we’d come back. We made a pact,” Murphy told the crowd. “We have a relationship now, in a way. Not like that. Don’t call all the time.”
For LCD Soundsystem, 2002’s “Losing My Edge” stood as both introduction and statement of intent, as Murphy sang-spoke his fear of losing relevancy to “the kids from France and from London” and “the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties.” In 2001, when 9/11 changed everything, Murphy was on the wrong side of thirty; he was broke, and he was sleeping on an inflatable mattress at DFA Records’ clubhouse/HQ in Greenwich Village. “Losing My Edge” gave him the energy to come out of that.
“I think you should know that Pat is bleeding for you,” Murphy announced. “His snare drum is covered in middle-aged man blood. You know what? Middle-aged man blood is pretty cheap.” Murphy was in high spirits, marching equipment around the stage, laughing, and messing up the lyrics to “Dance Yrself Clean.”
The night ended with the dancefloor anthem “All My Friends,” arguably the closest thing New York’s post-millennial rock scene has to a theme song. When it first came out, Murphy worried that the song was too pop, with its steady build and skittery “Baba O’Riley” synths. Pitchfork named “All My Friends” the second-best track of the 2000s, second only to Outkast’s “B.O.B.” It was the song that proved Murphy and LCD Soundsystem were never really in danger of losing their edge at all, despite growing older: “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan/And the next five years trying to be with your friends again.”
The song evokes a certain euphoria associated with the realization that you’re not alone, embodying the sense of community and comfort the city found in music in the early 2000s. It speaks to young people trying to find a sense of themselves and their crowd in New York City. The lights came up as the song drew to a close with Murphy singing, “Where are your friends tonight? If I could see all my friends tonight.” And for a second they were all there, by your side, before heading into the night.