There are a few ways for concertgoers to evaluate a set. Did the audience hear all the radio singles it wanted? Did the band throw in some fan favorites and rarities? Or did the band play a mixture of its whole discography in an order that allowed for the momentous highs while never bottoming out so low that the crowd stands still?
Whichever your answer, LCD Soundsystem has perfected a set list so epic, so powerful and so emotional, that the audience is never allowed to come down from its musical high.
LCD Soundystem proved to Hamilton College on Friday night that they are one of the best live acts touring right now. The six-piece punk/pop/dance/electronica band, fronted by James Murphy, has risen to elite status in the music world – three critically acclaimed albums and a slew of high-profile shows will do that. After the release of 2007’s Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem made their triumphant return in 2010 with not only a new album but also with a short spring tour. Their current “This Is Happening” tour, with opener Sleigh Bells and on some nights Hot Chip, is one of the must-catch tours of the fall.
Sleigh Bells took the stage at 8 p.m. on Friday. Standing in front of a stack of Marshall amps, the noise rock duo – which features former Poison the Well guitarist Derek Miller and lead vocalist Alexis Krauss – began to pump up the crowd with songs from their well-received debut Treats.
Despite only having two people on stage, they sounded ferocious. Armed with recordings of drums and bass, the predictable set featured highlights “Crown on the Ground,” “Infinity Guitars,” and “Rill Rill.” Sleigh Bells are up-and-comers, but their music is explosive enough to get even a casual listener swaying. In fact most of the crowd asked for earplugs in the middle of the set.
After a brief intermission, the lights dimmed for the main event. The sold-out crowd of about 700 students squeezed its way closer to the stage. What the crowd got for the next hour and 40 minutes can only be summed up in two words: dance party.
The students, who were decked out in glow sticks, neon and headbands, were ready to move and jump around all night. Despite having a bit of a cold, Murphy was ready to provide it for them. Setting the tone early with “Dance Yrself Clean,” the speakers and crowd ignited on the song's dancetastic synth riff. After that, Mr. Murphy knew the crowd was in the palm of his hands. And for the next 11 songs, he never let the tempo drop.
Part of the audience had never heard of the band prior to the show, but like all good live acts, LCD Soundsystem has earned a spot in their iPod rotations. “Get Innocuous!” got the crowd sweating with its pianos, bass and electronica noise. “Yr City’s a Sucker,” a B-side, was less enthusiastically received, but its dance beat and repetitive lyrics had everyone singing back after a few minutes.
The set list, which featured songs from all three albums, was eclectic enough to keep the diehard fan happy while also allowing casual LCD listeners to hear all their favorites. “All My Friends” put the crowd in a tizzy with its repetitive piano line; set-closer “Yeah” was a 10-minute techno onslaught with Murphy chanting, “Yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah” over heavy guitar, bass and synth riffs. Everyone by that point had a dance partner, and was twirling them around and jumping up and down.
After a quick break, Murphy and company returned for their two-song encore. “Losing My Edge” is an eight-minute ironic rant about losing your place in life. Murphy changes the lyrics almost every night to keep it fresh. New single and show closer “Home” sent the audience home happy. The crowd was drenched in sweat and walked away praising the show it just witnessed.
Hamilton College will not see a better dance party this year.
LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy coaxes the Hamilton College crowd to throw their hands in the air. (Photo: Alex Pines)