Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip at the Aragon Ballrom, 10/25/10

New York City-based indie dance punk outfit LCD Soundsystem played a sold-out show at Uptown's Aragon Ballroom this Monday.  UK electropop band Hot Chip opened for the show. I like both bands and their music seemed complementary, so I was excited to get to see them both together.

I hadn't been to the Aragon Ballroom in several years and I was surprised by how much bigger it is than most of the other indie rock venues in Chicago.  It is at least four times as big as my most frequently visited venue, the Metro.  Aragon is somewhat dubiously known for having poor sound quality.  This was more apparent during the Hot Chip set, where the bass seemed to overtake the rest of the music. Parking was also more expensive than most other venues, a hefty 20 dollars for a spot at any of the nearby private lots.

Hot Chip took the stage almost immediately at 8 PM and played for about an hour.  Their set started out somewhat low-energy and with a bass-dominated, muddled sound.  However, their performance improved greatly through out the evening.  Standouts included "Over and Over" from their 2006 album The Warning, and "A Touch Too Much" and "Ready for the Floor" from Made in the Dark (2008). The highlight of the set for me was the fancy footwork by the band's sharply dressed multi-instrumentalist Owen Clarke.  He is truly the Justin Hammer of Hot Chip.

It was uncomfortably warm during the Hot Chip set, and once people had packed in for LCD Soundsystem, it became practically a sauna.  However, lack of room and high temperatures did not stop anyone from dancing.  LCD Soundsystem opened with an awesome rendition of "Dance Yrself Clean."  Their set list drew equally from all three of their albums and they played pretty much every song you could expect or want.  Their sound fared much better than Hot Chip; it was super loud, but the guitar and drums stood out as much as the bass.  However, singer and band leader James Murphy's onstage comments were barely audible.

The show really gave me a new appreciation for their most recent album, This is Happening.  The songs that I liked from the album, like "Dance Yrself Clean," "I Can Change," and the closer "Home", sounded even better live.  But even the songs I didn't really care for on the album, like "You Wanted a Hit," were transformed to pure awesomeness.  However, I still couldn't quite bring myself to like anything in "Drunk Girls" besides the lyrics.  Sound of Silver is one of my favorite albums of the past decade.  So it's not a total surprise that several of my highlights from the show came from that album, especially "All of my Friends" and "Someone Great."  "Losing My Edge" from their self-titled album deserves a special shout-out too.  Basically, excluding "Drunk Girls," pretty much the entire show was a highlight. 

Making up for some of the drawbacks of the venue, the audience was one of the best in recent memory.  They were energetic, but definitely less rowdy than most crowds I've been in at the Metro.  James Murphy is the patron saint of indie kids who like to dance, so there some was pretty serious dancing going on, but very little shoving.  Also, the show had probably the coolest use of stage and strobe lighting that I've ever seen.   

Supposedly, This is Happening will be the last LCD Soundsystem record.  Hopefully, James Murphy changes his mind about that.  But if you get the chance to see the band live in the near future, I highly recommend checking them out while they are still around!

Rock on.