Live music still has a heartbeat….

The run-up to Christmas is always brilliant for gigs, and we’ve been busy on that front, seeing 3 of Dropout’s favourite bands in the space of a few weeks. Heading to Alexandra Palace on 11th November we got a double-header of two of the best bands around at the moment: LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip.

Having seen both this year already (in fact Hot Chip are my most-seen band now, clocking up 6 gigs since Lovebox in 2006) at Sonar, it was great to see them together, and while the venue’s organisation left a bit of be desired, the sound and vision from the two groups were, as ever, brilliant. Hot Chip may not click live for some people, but I love them as a real work-in-progress style of performance: there’s so much going on, so many instruments involved, and they look like they’re having the time of their lives (as much as uber-electro-geeks can do anyway). Hearing a lot of their new album One Life Stand was great. Brothers and One Life Stand always get to me.

 LCD Soundsystem Alexandra Palace

But it was even more poignant seeing LCD Soundsystem, as it is probably the last time (certainly for a long time, possibly for ever) that they’ll play in London. Having started up as a one-album experiment by James Murphy and Pat Mahoney – with Nancy Whang joining them as well as a roll-call of concert and album collaborators (including, aptly, Hot Chip’s Al Doyle) – they’ve been possibly one of the bands that’s dominated the decade’s music since their eponymous album in 2005.

It’s hard to think it’s only been 5 years since I first heard Daft Punk Is Playing In My House. I was captivated, and wanted to know who this band was, that played rough and scuzzy pop that sounded alternatively like house music, garage rock and lo-fi electronic wistfulness. Since then, they’ve been the soundtrack to mine and many others’ lives, each album being able to pinpoint various events, be it trips to Ibiza, Sonar, roasting London Summers or grey wet winters. It’s obviously sad they’re going their seperate ways, but you can’t blame James Murphy. He’s so full of ideas that it’s almost criminal to keep him on one thing, and he passed up producing Arcade Fire’s last album (Neon Bible) when he was caught up on Sound Of Silver.

They leave a legacy of amazing records, and resounding memories, and as a live band they’re up there with the best. Sadly for the gig, James’ voice was suffering, but he still made it a night to remember, one which is – as is now ever more popular – now also available on CD. It’s a way for bands to get extra income against the illegal downloads that hit their record sales, and to the music fan it’s an official modern-day version of the concert bootleg that becomes a perfect memory of a night that may have been hazy in the coming weeks. So, goodbye to LCD, I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of them. Even more incredible was 1st December, and finally seeing Arcade Fire after 7 years of failed attempts. Words don’t really do the band or gig justice, but suffice to say they took a venue that I hate – the o2 – and turned it into a majestic backdrop for one of the top 5 gigs of my reasonable life.

 Arcade Fire live at the o2.

Many times you’ll build up the event that you’ve been waiting so long to see until it’s at a level of anticipation that it can’t possibly top, but in this case, it sailed past that and way beyond. Having loved all three albums with reverence, I knew it would be impossible to include every song I’d want to hear, but they almost achieved it.

Adding a raw energy to the studio sound, especially rocking the walls down to Month Of May (they’re not violin-wielding folksters when they don’t want to be) and closing with a fantatsic encore of We Used To Wait and Wake Up (the cherry on the proverbial cake) I shuffled into the cold floating on air. It’s at times like this that you realise live music is really without challenger for an emotional, physical and aural experience.

Let’s hope we’re still saying this in 2020.

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