LCD Soundsystem re-returns to Brooklyn Steel for month-long residency

The indie rock group that rose to prominence in New York in the early 2000s began its 20-show residency at Brooklyn Steel on Nov. 18.

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Susan Behrends Valenzuela

LCD Soundsystem is currently playing shows at Brooklyn Steel through Dec. 17. (Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Luke J. Curnin, Contributing Writer

For the past 20 minutes, an hour and a half after my arrival, I was talking to a 6-foot-8-inch 30-something Brooklynite named Fred, who had a neck beard and sported a Karen O shirt. He’d been going on about how this guy from Williamsburg changed music forever when he formed the band LCD Soundsystem. Fred remembered when they were the next big thing — the post-9/11 lull, CBGB, when The Strokes were just a bunch of arts school kids — he remembered it all. He was almost in a trance, a reverie prompted by this concert.

LCD Soundsystem began their 20-show residency at Brooklyn Steel, a much-loved rock venue in East Williamsburg, on Nov. 18. After the release of their record “American Dream” in 2017, the band went on a full hiatus that effectively ended when they began their first residency at Brooklyn Steel in 2021. Now, with a Saturday Night Live appearance under their belt as well as contributions to the soundtrack of Noah Baumbach’s newest film “White Noise,” the band has a second residency at Brooklyn Steel — their reputation having only grown over the past five years.

I nodded, feeling sorry that an era he held so dear had come and gone. Then I scanned the room, wondering whether my cousin had stood me up. I spotted him near the entrance just as the lights dimmed and the near-2000 member crowd exploded into cheers. The band came out, drinking wine and toasting the audience. The atmosphere was heavy with anticipation. There was the briefest moment of silence — an open door between then and now. Then they played the first chord and all that sorrow I felt for Fred left me, because it was as if that era never ended. LCD Soundsystem was back.

LCD Soundsystem’s residency concerts transcend taste and type, with the best part being the diversity of their sound. The band defies easy categorization. Although Wikipedia sprawlingly labels them an American rock band, it is difficult to put LCD Soundsystem into one box. Their extensive use of synthesizers and percussion seems to make them an electronic group, but when listening to their music, a clear rock influence can be heard. Some songs are entirely spoken word over music, some are eight-minute gems and others are succinct three-minute treasures. 

It is this constant ebb and flow between songs and sounds that makes a night with LCD Soundsystem memorable. They keep their audiences engaged and on their feet, enjoying the moment, and dying to know what they’ll play next. This is the second most exciting aspect of the show. Listening, moving and feeling the energy of the space — listeners are pulled into a musical dialogue with the band.

The group not only played great music but displayed a total mastery of performance. Anybody can learn an instrument, but not everybody can make it look like they were born to play it like the members of LCD Soundsystem do. The first word that comes to mind upon seeing the seven-person band in full is “cool.” Their attractive quality is in the way that each of them dress, the confidence in their movement and the way they play like nobody is watching. 

Perhaps the most impressive of them all is frontman James Murphy. On stage, Murphy wore a white T-shirt and dark blue pants, with a five o’clock shadow. He had a black jacket on but took it off before the first song even started. He held the microphone close, moving his body to the music and never standing still. Though the tone of his voice was clear, that didn’t stop him from yelling a note into the microphone every now and then. While he waited for songs to start, he nodded his head and tapped his feet, sometimes checking in on other members, moving a guitar pedal or even giving a note — Murphy is infamous for being a micromanager

But in everything he does, Murphy never loses that air of nonchalance that draws viewers in and forces them to keep looking. Drummer Pat Mahoney glues the band together, never doing too much or too little. He does not overshadow the rest of the band, which could be easy to do since his drum kit is right at the front of the stage. Keyboardist Nancy Whang lives in her own world, as she rocks green face paint and a gray suit while barely giving the audience a head nod.

The songs are amazing — that’s a given — but it is the band members that pushed this show into excellence. They played all the hits, from the exciting “Dance Yrself Clean” to the mellow “Home” to the dance hit “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House.” One of the most memorable numbers of the night was their signature song “Losing My Edge,” which brings into question if the band is maintaining their edge or not. Insecurity is present in its lyrics: “I’m losing my edge / The kids are coming up from behind / I’m losing my edge / I’m losing my edge to the kids from France and from London / But I was there.”

In the song, Murphy goes on about how he knew everything was hip before everyone else knew it was, like CBGB, Daft Punk and Larry Levan — a prominent NYC night club DJ from the mid-80s. Yet he constantly undermines himself with the statement, “I’m losing my edge.”

Aside from Murphy, no other band member spoke to the audience and very few even looked at the crowd, totally engrossed in their own instruments and music. Murphy’s movements and stage presence happen without care. It’s this attitude — whether conscious or not — that sets LCD Soundsystem apart from other rockers of today. 

After about two hours of non-stop rocking — save for one short intermission — the concert came to an end. On my way out, I bumped into Fred and we recounted the night. He was at a loss for words, in awe at the fact that his favorite band from college came back together. I asked him if he thought that Murphy truly was losing his edge, and he just shrugged his shoulders. To me that was a way of him asking if it really mattered or not, which maybe it doesn’t. 

Edge or no, nothing stopped LCD Soundsystem from playing a great show. Fred flashed me a peace sign as he faded into the crowd, joining the dozens of other Brooklynites who left their microbreweries to see the show. They dispersed into the night, just like LCD Soundsystem did a decade prior. But unlike the band, I was sure Fred would be coming back — LCD Soundsystem is playing at Brooklyn Steel through Dec. 17.

Contact Luke J. Curnin at [email protected]