The Best Funeral in Recent Memory

by: Stephanie Roush

July 19, 2012

“When you start a band do you imagine how it will end?” asks Chuck Klosterman to James Murphy. The simple answer is no. In the LCD Soundsystem documentary, “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” chronicling the band’s final 48 hours, James Murphy makes it clear that he had no notion of the fame the band would eventually receive. No one did. And thus, the band’s final sold-out Madison Square Garden show is all the more poignant.

LCD Soundsystem at MSG
Photo by Veronique Lee

In a completely packed theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night, I joined thousands of LCD Soundsystem fans around the country in viewing the one-night-only showing of the closest thing the band will ever have to an obituary. Opening with “Dance Yrself Clean” the audience immediately responded to the film’s canny ability to transport the audience to those final moments.

Half way through this first song, I whispered under my breath how amazing it would have been to be there in the flesh. “I was there,” said the man sitting next to me, “you have no idea what it was like.” All of the sudden I was filled with the sense that most of the young Brooklyn audience had been there and that the film was merely a opportunity to remember an experience never to be recreated.

The sound mixing and quality was poor, but maybe intentionally so. The blatant imperfection of the audio track for the clips from the final show offered a more authentic sense of what it was like to be there. The cuts between the show and Murphy’s interview with Klosterman create dramatic contrast between Murphy’s life as a rockstar and Murphy’s life as an intellectual. As an audience we’re constantly reminded that he’s funny and witty, almost too smart for his own good.

“Shut Up and Play the Hits” is not a documentary about LCD Soundsystem. It’s a tribute to the end of one of the most beloved bands of our time. In the final scene, as Murphy sings “New York I Love You,” thousands of white balloons cascade down over the audience. Both onscreen and in the movie theater there was a palpable sense of the simultaneous joy and sadness of the moment. The camera pans over fans wrought with tears, and as a someone who loves the band, but wasn’t in attendance for their final show, I felt compelled to shed a tear as well because even onscreen and after-the-fact LCD Soundsystem puts on one hell of a show.

LCD at MSG

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