This is and isn’t a review for LCD Soundsystem at Air Canada Centre. If it is, it’s a sloppy one, lacking in objective perspective and proper cohesive structure. Primarily because there was nothing cohesive about my experience. It was weird and nostalgic and present and emotional. I was there in one sense and ten years back in another. TL;DR: I experienced liminal time.
Having never gone to the ACC for a gig before (I went to a Raptors game once) I didn’t quite know what to expect. As I said yesterday, I’ve shied away from stadium concerts for a while now. They’re so often this overblown experience where showboating is a matter of course. It’s less the artists’ fault and more in tune with societal expectations. If they’ve shelled out $100+ for a ticket, there’s the assumption that there’ll be a commensurate level of panache. I think. I dunno. I want to be close enough to the stage that I can see artists spit (Salive music?). Sure that’s doable at a gig with a few hundred others. Air Canada Centre fits over 19,000 people. I didn’t know what time I’d need to be there to have my desired spitting image.
Doors opened at 6pm. I was there at 5.50pm. I’m no stranger to being prompt and since this was the first gig I’d paid for in far too long, I resolved that I’d get my money’s worth. Whatever that odd concept of “value” means anyway. At worst I’d play on my phone and see the opener. Doors at 6pm would mean an opener at 7pm. I could wait an hour. I did. I wasn’t right up against the bar in front of the stage, but I was behind the guy who was. There was a rubber pad running along the floor at the front. It was flat, then sloped off. I stood firmly on the slope. My view of the stage was uninterrupted. I was stoked. I waited my hour, messed around on the internet and learned all about Cicada 3301 and weird hacker subcultures. It was creepy and fascinating. It was a good use of my time by any stretch of the imagination. At 7pm a DJ started playing to zero fanfare. She didn’t give a shit, she kept doing her thing and doing it well. I realised that in character for my withering physical detritus of a body, I was getting a little achy. I’d been staring down at my phone and my feet had been flexed on an angle for an hour. I shifted a bunch, but primarily ached more. Ageing is as ageing does.
8.30pm ticked by and the band finally took the stage. Any physical pain subsided due to pure ecstasy. I wasn’t drugged, but I may well have been. A smile crept across my face and refused to leave for the next two or so hours. By the end, I ached from grinning too. The stage looked like a cross between a disco and a submarine. Weird old electrical boards flanked the back, with wires patched in all over the show. A disco ball hung from the ceiling and lights were everywhere. Three drum kits, numerous keyboards and synths plus massive speakers. An impressive haul for any band.
James Murphy was like a large child starved for attention. The few times he wasn’t singing (and half the time he was), he’d get distracted and go play. Whether it was disassembling other people’s drum kits, hitting things or prodding himself with his own sticks or using the mic cord as a whip, he was rarely bored. Sometimes he mounted the speakers and turned his back on the crowd, like some kind of crazed conductor. He was glib and sarcastic, but there was no denying that the band were having a great time.
They weren’t the only ones. Everyone in my radius (who were, I guess, people that bothered showing up two hours early) were losing their minds. A constant series of gyrations, jumping, twisting and, I dunno, flicking, spinning and anything else Bop It does. We were all singing along and celebrating anything they threw our way. The setlist was a fantastic spread of their career, with a couple of great early pulls and a hugely crowd friendly assortment all around. I couldn’t have been more in my element.
Here’s the interesting thing about being right up the front at the ACC. You have no idea of scale. It was impossible to see much of the stands, or far behind me. My scope was no different than being at The Horseshoe Tavern. Because of this limited vantage, it changed my perspective entirely. These songs were broadly popular, sure, but they’d always been personal to me. LCD Soundsystem was the music of my 20s. “All My Friends” is nostalgic for too many reasons to count. From where I was standing, it was like I was seeing a band play with complete abandon in their garage. Despite the mammoth gig, it felt intensely intimate and special. At more than one occasion I teared up at how overwhelming it all was. In those moments I was there, but I was also travelling in an RV late at night after getting lost for ten hours. I was partying in the basement of my friend’s house with rainbow lights everywhere. I was running in the streets where I grew up. I was on a plane heading to Canada for my brother’s wedding. I was dancing with friends at a packed out warehouse party. I was living and re-living so many simultaneous moments that it didn’t matter where I was, I was happy.
If that ain’t value, I don’t know what is.