LCD Soundsystem, welcome to your victory lap.
The New York-based dance-rock collective, who closed the first night of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, is one of two celebrated reunions happening this weekend. LCD Soundsystem nodded to the other, dipping into a few bars of Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” late into its set. When making a comeback, it’s best to do it with a little self-deprecation.
Though LCD Soundsystem hasn’t been absent from the scene nearly as long as the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup - five years or so - it’s been long enough in the fast-moving, trend-hopping universe of Coachella to make the James Murphy-led collective feel like elder statesmen. Consider the group grandfathers of the Coachella sound - raucous, upbeat and with a complete disinterest in easily definable genre borders.
But where a party-first mentality drapes much of the dance music present at Coachella, LCD Soundsystem distinguished itself with a sly, what-are-we-partying-for mentality. It’s reflective, and ready to laugh at itself.
That mix - celebratory, melancholic and unafraid to look in the mirror - was present Friday night. The band, as meticulous in its production values as Murphy’s sing-speak vocals are unrefined, paid tribute to the late David Bowie with a breezily bittersweet cover of “Heroes” but also kept it silly with the neon-coated keyboards of “Daft Punk is Playing At My House.”
And is there a better end to a full day of Coachella than the we’re-not-getting-any-younger anthem that is “All My Friends”? Recklessness and regrets collide as a low-to-the-ground piano propels the song forward. It’s part club song, part midlife crisis panic attack. Coachella, now more than a decade and a half old itself, is mature enough to handle a little soul-searching.
It’s perhaps no surprise that a set that should have been a pat-on-the-back gallop for LCD Soundsystem had a slight pall over it, for LCD Soundsystem has always questioned past glories rather than commemorated them. The band’s prowess Friday night was undeniable - the zig-zag buzz of “Losing My Edge” or the rhythmic pingpong of “Dance Yrself Clean.”
Welcome back, definitely, but this wasn’t a band built to live in the past, and what was missed Friday was a glimpse of where LCD Soundsystem is going to take us in the future.
Martens writes for the California News Group, publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.