February 8 2011. A day that crushed many a fan’s dreams. A simple announcement on the LCD Soundsystem website marked the end of a band that wasn’t really meant to be a band. They were older than your typical rock outfit and yet shot to superstardom in less time than most other bands due to their unique blend of disco and punk stylings, drawing influences from a catalogue of the most well stocked record shop in all the world. And yet it was at this peak that they decided to call it quits. This left many, myself included, quite flabbergasted that a band with so much popularity would decide to drop out of the race while in pole position. Rumours flew around as to why they had called it quits but the real reason was primarily that they were getting too old. James Murphy started the band at the grand old age of 32 and around ten years later wanted to focus on other things. The band had come together as a group of friends simply to have a good time which exploded into the LCD Soundsystem we know today.
Shut Up And Play The Hits is a document of the subsequent last ever gig. And by last ever gig, they sure as fuck meant “last ever”. No reunions, no nothing. If they were going out, they were going out with a bang. So the date was set. April 2nd at New York’s Madison Square Garden. What followed was a 4 hour party with guests such as Reggie Watts, Arcade Fire and label mates Shit Robot. It was less of a bang, more of a firework fuelled spectacular. I stayed up until 5am watching the live stream of the gig and, even alone in my bedroom, it was the best thing ever.
Shut Up And Play The Hits covers the run up to this huge blowout, the witching hour itself and then the come down, hangover fuelled day after alongside interview snippets with James Murphy as to why he decided to quit as well as dissection of his work and his career as a whole. Electric concert footage covers most of the documentary, making it more akin to Stop Making Sense than Living In The Material World (which is apt because I often think of LCD Soundsystem as my generation’s Talking Heads), but the interview snippets give you an insight into the psyche of James Murphy, a notoriously shy character who hates talking about the meaning of his songs. The most eye opening scene is a simple scene in which Murphy visits the lock up where most of the gear from the MSG gig is being held before being sold off. He walks into the lock up, sits in a chair silently, gets up, walks among the gear and just breaks down in tears. This is a man who is not sure if he made the right decision in disbanding LCD Soundsystem, as mentioned when he is asked what the defining failure of LCD might be, but is happy that he had a fucking great journey along the way.
The real highlight, however, is the concert footage itself. The cheapest concert film ever filmed at Madison Square Garden, it doesn’t feel that way at all. The energy is electric and places you right in the centre of this huge party as old friends play together for the last time and the crowd go wild. Having seen LCD Soundsystem live before, the energy of the actual live gig is still there even in a cinema. The party atmosphere is one of the prevailing memories of that gig and is the reason why it is one of my favourite gigs ever, if not THE best gig I’ve been to. I ended up going on my own because a friend couldn’t go but I met loads of people, was right at the front in what Murphy himself calls the “party block” (the block of 1000 or so people near the front who are just having a fucking great time) and just danced for the entirety of it. Watching Shut Up And Play The Hits brought back all the great memories from that night; from everybody losing their shit when the room went pitch black during Us vs Them and the light shining on the mirrorball was the only source of light to the mass singalong of New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. And that’s what made me sad when watching SUAPTH. The fact LCD Soundsystem will never play a live gig together again. That’s what they were best at. They wanted to turn the conventional gig on its head and turn it into a huge disco. And they succeeded. Gig in, gig out that is what we got. And that is why they were the force that they were. They knew how to have a good time.
And they went out having THE BEST time.