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Reissue Of The Week: LCD Soundsystem's The Long Goodbye
Ian Wade , August 6th, 2021 07:33

As LCD Soundsystem's supreme 2011 gig receives a lavish 10th anniversary reissue, Ian Wade delves into a completist's dream of a performance, and ponders the significance of 'farewell' gigs

It was meant to be the grand farewell. A Last Waltz for the disco set. A big sending off for one of the greatest bands of the last twenty years . LCD Soundsystem’s 2011 show at Madison Square Garden, a three-hour behemoth of a set, was billed at the time as their last ever, and first released the following year as The Long Goodbye. Now, a decade on from the gig, six years after the bands unexpected 2015 return, and with James Murphy and co once again on hiatus, the recording is being treated to a lavish 5xLP / 3xCD box set.

In 2011 many fans were a bit miffed that they couldn’t attend due to it being a one-off show New York, and plenty of others were just borderline helpless at the news that LCD Soundsystem had decided, ‘we’re off!’. The mourning became less intense when they got the opportunity to witness the performance themselves, after it was released in selected cinemas as Shut Up & Play The Hits, itself a fond reminder of what they had had, and now lost. Similarly, when LCD Soundsystem decided to return just four years later, some thought it a bit cheeky. That was until 2017’s American Dream arrived, and reminded them why they fell in love with James Murphy in the first place.

Yet what does it actually mean any more when a band goes out and says ‘farewell?’ It’s a trope as old as time; everyone from Frank Sinatra to Judas Priest, Cher to A-ha has gone back on their word when it comes to retirement. Soft Cell recently resumed operations a mere three years after claiming their O2 show was their last ever. Is the unwritten contract between act and fan broken? It’s still not going to stop those fans from buying tickets and albums, surely.

Back in the early 2000s, when Pixies decided to give it another go, there was excitement and elation that a band that had burned so brightly and perfectly for a few short years were back out there and, like estranged parents, willing to give it another go. Similar reactions were there for My Bloody Valentine, Pulp, Blur, The Specials – anyone for whom it looked as if the inter-band relationships were beyond repair, back together to recapture their magic. That Pixies have since released several new albums might’ve lessened their impact and legacy, but the hunger is still there as far as tickets are concerned.

Making a grand last statement in the form of a ‘farewell’ album enables a listener to clasp a fondness towards a moment in time, a moment that you’ll no longer be able to capture again. It sticks your memories in a pop aspic and negates any worries that the band have gone crap. By the notion of going out on a high or a peak, it ties up what made an act so special in the first place, and in the case of LCD Soundsystem here, showcases what a phenomenal live act they were.

LCD Soundsystem excel in enhancing their superlative catalogue on stage. Across the three hours-plus of The Long Goodbye, Murphy and his crack team including Nancy Whang, Rayna Russom, Pat Mahoney and Hot Chipper Al Doyle, piledrive through the hits and more, offering both release and attack when needed. There are additional bonuses of a choir, horns and even several members of Arcade Fire on backing vocals (but don’t let them put you off). There is nothing half-arsed here, it’s a full-on, guns blazing, out-on-a high.

Selections from the band’s first three albums (the eponymous debut, Sound of Silver and This Is Happening), as well as excerpts from 2006’s 45:33 composition mingle with one-off singles like ‘Bye Bye Bayou’ and ‘Yeah’, the occasional B-side ‘Freak Out/ Starry Eyes’ and covers; they take Yes’ ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ down the rave-up, and detonate in the encore with Harry Nilsson’s ‘Jump Into The Fire’ . In a set full of highlights, the frenetic calling-card ‘Losing My Edge’, um, edges it, but the acidic fury of ‘Yeah’ and glassy pound of ‘All My Friends’ are close behind, and there’s barely a dry eye in the house come the heartbreaking ‘Someone Great’ and ballooning finale ‘New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down’s. For a band built on the enthusiasm of completists, this an LCD completist’s dream, a party to end all parties.

This welcome rerelease of the five-vinyl box, and first time on CD, of the tenth anniversary of The Long Goodbye bills itself as ‘an essential document of a singular moment in the history of LCD Soundsystem and New York City’s musical life’, and really, a decade on we can see that it really was a farewell to an era. It rids itself of the baggage of the 2000s by becoming a requiem for a cultural time, an epilogue to a movement. It sheds the attendant hangers on, copyists and coat-tail tuggers and elevates LCD ever further into the pantheon of the greats . The Long Goodbye is that rarest of things – a perfect live album that you would willingly play more than once, putting it alongside Live After Death, Minimum Maximum, No Sleep Til’ Hammersmith and Stop Making Sense.

We’re always reminded that beyond the fantastical truths and wisdom and flash and wonder, pop music is also a business. A business of lies and falsehoods, a swamp of exploitative cynics and money-grabbers who will take your excitement and interest and support, and merrily take the piss. You know it, they know it – everyone knows it. Yet we overlook that time and time again because, aside from the enjoyment and memories we take from the experience, ultimately, when it hits the spot like this, it’s the most important thing in the world.