Friday, May 27, 2005

Live Review: LCD Soundsystem w/M.I.A. At Metro 5/19/05

I think I've reached that point where I've just simply attended too many shows. This was certainly a dance-tastic bill, and both artists did a great job of getting the crowd movin', but I wasn't inspired to do much more than some subtle hipster head-nodding for most of the night. Like many of my record-store workin,' rock critic lovin' brethren, I guess I too have reached that point where I've become "too cool for school" to move my feet to even the most infectious collection of live grooves. No wait... I don't want to be that guy. I'd still like to think that I can be inspired to dance, hoot and holler like a frenzied fan-boy if the performance is amazing enough. Well, actually I don't want to be that guy, either...but at the very least I should do more than nod my head to the beat with my arms crossed at a dance show. So, what was the issue at this show? Too much surliness from me, or lack of inspiration from the artists on stage? ------ Sri Lankan-born Londoner M.I.A is the toast of the underground music scene right now, thanks to her much-hyped debut album, Arular. An infectious blend of modern electronic beats fused with a global dance sound (heavy on the dancehall), the album has received glowing reviews in everything from uber-hip music zines to mainstream print outlets. M.I.A. has quickly skyrocketed to the top of everyone's "hot" list in 2005 and seems destined to become the next big thing. For her live show, M.I.A. was joined by a hypeman...err make that hypewoman (Cherry) and a DJ, her current beau Diplo. She sounded great live and you could tell she was definitely having some fun up there. The crowd was certainly enjoying themselves as well, to the point of starting a soccer-stadium worthy chant of "M-I-A" when she left the stage before returning for a rare opening-act encore set. It's hard not to like M.I.A. and seeing her live only reaffirmed this belief. However, the critic in me just wasn't quite satisfied with this show. When going out to see an artist perform, it seems to me that no matter how great their recorded songs are, the live performance should always be that much better. Whether you hear something in a song that you've never noticed before or the energy of the performance just makes you "feel" a song more, it seems to me that you always should get something more out of music in a live setting. Otherwise, what's the point of turning off your CD player and leaving your house? Arular is a really good record, and the songs sounded equally great live, but they were almost performed a bit too tightly. Not much variation, improvisation, expansion...everything was pretty straight and by the book (or should I say by the record). Even when M.I.A. came back for the encore and did some tracks off of Diplo's legendary mash-up exercise, Piracy Funds Terrorism, the songs sounded almost identical to the recordings. Granted many fans may not have heard these tracks before since the album was technically a bootleg, but Piracy... has been an Internet phenomenon for quite some time and you'd think Diplo would have came up with some new tricks by now. While M.I.A.’s live performance may not have exceeded her recordings, there at least wasn’t any loss in translation. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the set by LCD Soundsystem… If you’ve followed the underground music scene at all in the past few years, you know that LCD Soundsystem isn’t really a band, but just the performance moniker of producer James Murphy, best known as one-half of the DFA production team and record label. While his output as a musician has been rather limited (just a couple singles and a recent full-length debut), the few releases that have sported the "LCD Soundsystem" stamp have become underground classics. Tracks like "Losing My Edge," "Yeah" and, most recently, "Daft Punk is Playing My House" are already destined to become enshrined in the halls of the hipster-rock hall of fame. The brilliance of these singles, combined with his work for DFA (see Rapture’s "House of Jealous Lovers") really raised my expectations for this show. Here’s a man responsible for some of the best 12"s of the new millennium, so this show is bound to be amazing, right? Well, not exactly… Of course, in the back of my mind, I still realized Murphy is really a producer first…and a musician second. That’s not meant to be a knock on Murphy’s talent, but really just a reality check. (much like you can’t deny the talent of Pharrell Williams…but c'mon N.E.R.D?? that was totally gratuitous in the worst way) The brilliance of Murphy's soundsystem bangers is that they are simple and snarky. What I love about "Losing My Edge" is that it just sounds like some random asshole ranting over some archaic drum machine that he found in a pawnshop. It certainly doesn't sound like someone who would front an actual band that can sell out a 1,000+ capacity venue. However, Murphy did just that last week, bringing with him a full live band to play Chicago's Metro as LCD Soundsystem. The band was loud, raucous and energetic...but wait, this isn't the LCD Soundsystem that I know?? The one I fell in love with is a cynical-ass slacker...not someone who would actually go to the effort of organizing an entire band, let alone one that plays the songs really fast and with a lot of gusto. Murphy kept right up with them, too...delivering his vocals in more of a rambling quick rant, rather than his usual disinterested spoken word style. I'm certainly not one that condones not trying very hard just for the sake of being "indie" (in fact I actually quite despise this M.O.), however in this case I think Murphy may have actually been too ambitious in his live LCD performance. The genius of Murphy's songs have been in their tongue-in-cheek simplicity. With a full band, LCD sounded just like any other dance-party indie rockers. The uniqueness and, most importantly, the snarkiness, got lost in all the noise. Hell, I barely even recognized "Daft Punk is Playing at My House." The catchy bass line was drowned out by all the percussion and Murphy sang/spoke the damn thing so fast I missed all of my favorite lines. ----- Of course, all of this analysis is from a critical perspective. From a purely "let's get drunk and dance our asses off" standpoint, this show appeared to be a smashing success. In terms of inducing ass-shakin', I think M.I.A. may have narrowly won the contest, but Murphy and his crew certainly held their own up there. And even I have to admit that "Yeah" was actually really fun live. Judging by the crowd reactions throughout the night, perhaps my mild bemusement was purely a factor of my own surliness, not the quality of these performances. Maybe I've become that guy who Murphy enjoys mocking...I am, in fact, "Losing My Edge," not Murphy. No couldn't be me, it's got to be them. I've never been wrong about these things...after all, I did use to work in a record store.


Post a Comment

<< Home