LCD Soundsystem were a sentimental gut punch at the Air Canada Centre

In their first post-reunion set in Toronto, the band finally let fans who missed them the first time say "I was there"

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM at the Air Canada Centre, Sunday, December 3. Rating: NNNNN

Before LCD Soundsystem took the stage at the Air Canada Centre, disparate voices rang out in all directions, listing names and dates. Ottawa Bluesfest this summer. WayHome last summer. Kool Haus in 2010. Kool Haus in 2005, spoken with pride and greeted by murmurs of hushed admiration. In a crowd of “I was there’s”, each person was staking the same claim: I was there first.

I kept quiet last night, but I’ll admit it now: I wasn’t there. 

LCD Soundsystem first played Vancouver in 2007, when I was 13 and entirely devoted to Hannah Montana. I couldn’t have breached the Commodore Ballroom’s 19+ age restriction even if I’d wanted to. 

By 2010 when they played their second – and so far, final – Vancouver show at Malkin Bowl, my older and cooler friend had introduced me to Pitchfork, and to the video of Kermit the Frog singing New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down. But I wasn’t there either. 

No, my deep, abiding love of LCD Soundsystem took root and grew in the years since LCD Soundsystem played their farewell shows at Madison Square Garden in 2010. It looked like they’d forever cease to exist, and I made peace with that.

So maybe I was on a different frequency than many fans at the ACC. Maybe the “I was there” crowd, reuniting with James Murphy after nearly a decade apart, knows something I don’t and never will. But I can say this confidently: LCD Soundsystem songs were not built for tinny headphones. Feeling the bass in my body, shouting ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ahhh in a chorus of thousands – it was all the more special because I never thought I’d get the opportunity to experience it. 

On this tour, the band has been alternating between opening with their earliest hits (hysterical, anti-hipster missives like Losing My Edge and Yr City’s A Sucker) and their newest. 

At the Air Canada Centre, the lights went out to the low, sweet drone of Oh Baby, a lullaby for androids who dream of electric sheep and the opener on this autumn’s American Dream album. In a set otherwise packed with high-energy bangers, opening with it was a wry wink, demonstrating the band’s versatility as much as their mastery of their dance-rock form. 

For the rest of the night – a wholly satisfying 16 songs over nearly two hours – LCD Soundsystem seemed hell-bent on giving us the rager-for-the-ages we’d so long been denied. And the audience at the ACC – in a delightful and unexpected refutation of Toronto type – was more than willing to meet them halfway. 

The crowd rolled and churned, calling-and-responding in all the right places and lighting up with movement for the cataclysmic dance breaks in You Wanted A Hit and Tribulations. The drop that sends Dance Yrself Clean into the stratosphere was met with exactly the outsized welcome it so richly deserves: an ecstatic group singalong, a bundle of glowing balloons thrown out to the floor and blinding explosions of red, green and blue light timed to the machine-gun blasts of those first few programmed drum beats. 

What truly distinguishes LCD Soundsystem from their electro-pop peers is their ability to pair moments of sonic transcendence with richness of feeling. That’s a very pretentious way of explaining a trick Murphy pulls off entirely without pretense: pouring poignant poetry into vast digital soundscapes and letting the sentiment hit you in the gut when you least expect it. 

But the pièce de résistance, the encore to last night’s encore, was All My Friends, that clattering paean to late-stage youth that’s become the band’s emotional centrepiece. 

There at the ACC, it felt like every night you’ve stayed up with your best friends, muttering to each other on the floor of the living room, too sleepy to sleep and too in love to leave. Like every sunrise you’ve watched from the window of the library, panicking about the spate of exams you’re bound to fail. Like every time you’ve contemplated your friends in law school and your friends with bands and your friends with kids and felt sad and small and lost in comparison and would give anything to just be with your friends again.

For those final notes – Murphy howling “Where are your friends tonight?” – I stopped dancing and closed my eyes, just for a moment. I wanted to remember it. 

Finally, I was there. 

See more photos of LCD Soundsystem at the Air Canada Centre below:

LCD Soundsystem at the Air Canada Centre

Samuel Engelking

LCD Soundsystem at the Air Canada Centre

Samuel Engelking | @silkspectres


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