It's been ten years since James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem graced the hallowed annals of Red Rocks, but last night, after the first performance of their sold-out two-night stay, it was like they never left. They never seem to do that, do they? A band that started as a lark for a jaded hipster full of snark has taken on a life larger than anyone expected, and maybe more than Murphy ever intended. After calling it “quits” five years ago, maybe Murphy decided he couldn't keep mailing in bit parts in indie dramedy movies, and so brought back the most important band of his generation. (Just don't tell him that.)
After a strong set from British post-punk band Savages, LCD Soundsystem appeared without elaborate ceremony, with Murphy dressed in rumpled white shirt and pants. After a rousing opener of “Us vs. Them," which served as a great unifier despite its name, the beat for “Daft Punk Is Playing in My House” took over the venue. Rains drizzled like the tempo while a slow-rolling thunder approached across the high plains. By the time “You Wanted a Hit” swept over the rocks, it seemed like the lightning was choreographed by a god above. More likely, Murphy had summoned the gods and disaffected hipsters alike to bend to his groove.
The next hour and a half was a steady stream of nonchalant bass lines that would seem bored if they didn’t have so many friends around. Punctuated by blasts of LED light and wiggly cowbell, the set was perfectly balanced, and LCD landed on a closer to end all closers: "New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down." The song, the moment — culminating in banging piano, lonely but celebratory guitars, and Murphy and the crowd wailing "Maybe I'm wrong and maybe you're right" — could have made Lou Reed weep.
But, true to form, that wasn't enough.
The group promptly returned to the stage to remind everyone that they hadn’t heard their favorite song yet. “Yr City’s a Sucker” and “Dance Yrself Clean” brought the party back once again. Finally, with the stage illuminated by a lone white light, a few piano notes sounded through the space. The keys repeated, and every few seconds, the band added drums, then guitar and bass, elements of Murphy's musical influences and past all blending into the joyous cacophony of "All My Friends." Extending well beyond the customary seven and a half minutes, it seemed like the hook would never end. And it almost didn’t.
Despite taking their final bows a second time, the band returned and gave one more pass at “All My Friends” as the curfew clock ticked away, the last note ringing out as Murphy counted down to 11:30 p.m. on the dot. "Hard curfew," he said. With that, LCD Soundsystem was finished. For now.
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If Bowie was an alien, then James Murphy is one of us. He has a curfew. He has an edge to lose. What he wants is what we all want: free TV. As a generation, it is our common value and somehow our birthright. If you thought baby boomers were obnoxious, just wait until you get a load of this generation — full of self-referential post-modernists who continually demand the best, even after already experiencing the best that entertainment has to offer.
Where do we go after perfection? Thankfully, James Murphy and friends can’t manage to stay away long enough for us to find out.
Kevin O'Brien is a Denver-based comedian, writer and host of the pop-culture podcast These Things Matter.