THE BEGINNING

Turns out James Murphy wasn’t kidding when he said these comeback shows would be the band’s best yet.

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LCD Soundsystem live review @ Primavera Sound, Barcelona (Thursday 2 June)

In January James Murphy moved swiftly and eloquently to confront the backlash about the return of LCD Soundsystem. In a long online post he explained that the trigger for the reunion was a collection of new song ideas he had last year, and that of the choices laid in front of him, LCD reforming and “dealing with whatever fall-out there was together” was the best option.

He apologised to those who now felt the farewell shows five years previous had somehow “cheapened” the band, saying honestly that he hadn’t considered the hurt it may cause to some fans who felt betrayed by their return.

He’d resolved to turn that negativity into motivation. “The only thing we can do now is get back into the studio and finish the record,” he stated. “It needs to be better than anything we’ve done before… and we have to play better than we’ve ever played, frankly.”

So it’s at a potentially strange junction that LCD arrive at this round of festival shows. Murphy says he’s written the finest songs of his career (a frightening prospect on the strength of tonight’s setlist), but there’s no sign of those yet. This is, in reality, LCD Soundsystem’s farewell parties rewired as their welcome back shows, but somehow even more powerful.

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For the moment, at least, the setlist is broadly the same, but the emotional weight of saying goodbye has been dispelled. Murphy, and the seven other musicians he’s joined by on stage look elated to be back. And, given the time the band had to rust, it all looks so effortless. From the second they start playing ‘Us Vs Them’ over their intro track, smoke rising on the breeze and a giant glitter ball spraying rays of light into the crowd, they lock into their distinctive, muscular groove. They never release their grip.

Murphy, his voice stronger, less craggy, conducts the band but is relaxed, smiling, rolling up the sleeves of his grandad shirt, clutching his football commentator microphone. He tweaks a drum mic here, waves down a synthesiser level there like the audiologist he is, and introduces the band one by one between songs throughout the show.

As a unit they’re on formidable form. A camera planted in the rafters of the stage projected onto screens provides a birds-eye view of the band’s impressive kit but also their dynamic – each member beavering away at their workstation like the components in the engine of a classic car. Every detail is precise, glinting and there for a reason – like the xylophone, probably only used for about 30 seconds total in the almost two-hour set, but still totally necessary. It’s a fine-tuned, slick, tight but somehow raw, edgy, powerful machine.

The set builds. ‘Daft Punk Is Playing In My House’ is the second song, followed by ‘I Can Change’ and ‘Tribulations’. ‘Someone Great’ is a tearful mid-set moment. An hour and a half simply disappears before they enter the final straight, an intoxicating sequence of ‘Losing My Edge’ (in which Murphy masterfully updates the lyrics to note other artists on the Primavera bill) and ‘Home’, running into ‘New York I Love You But You’re Brining Me Down’, ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ and, finally, ‘All My Friends’. They hug on stage before making an unfussy exit.

James Murphy, it appears, is a man of his word. He said LCD Soundsystem would play the best shows of their career. They’re doing that right now. With the “best album of their career” to come, that’s a salivating prospect almost too great to contemplate.

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