There may be Washington-area fans of LCD Soundsystem who still feel somewhat betrayed that James Murphy is back: upset that he staged an elaborate, long goodbye in 2011, complete with a farewell concert at Madison Square Garden and a film that documented the denouement. Upset that someone who expressed the highs and lows that music obsessives go through would pull the fake retirement trick.
But happily, the crowd who filled the District’s newest wonder-venue, the Anthem, to capacity Tuesday night seemed like the forgive-and-forget types. The kind of folks who need James Murphy and his disheveled dad bod, his funny microphone and goofy grin (and can afford to shell out upward of $60 to see him).
And when the swelling rhythms of the opening “Get Innocuous!” hit, it hardly seemed like he’d ever been gone. He ambled around the stage with a grin, checking on his bandmates, sipping from a glass of wine. With a muscular, seven-member incarnation of LCD behind him, Murphy officially kicked off the latest North American leg of the tour supporting the comeback album “American Dream,” playing half the songs on the record and all the appropriate staples in between.
There was scant evidence of the whip-crack, emotionally raw churn of the very best LCD Soundsystem — it’s 2017, after all, not 2007 — but the big, lithe band was easy to enjoy regardless, handling both a thrashed-up “Movement” and the subtle shading of “Call the Police” with remarkable skill.
The keyboards and vocals of Nancy Whang and the wonderful synthesizer playing of Gavin Russom were central, with guitars, bass and drums creating a crunchy outer shell around them.
Murphy admitted that it took the group a few songs to get adjusted to the size of the Anthem, the 6,000-capacity concert hall that opened on the Southwest waterfront last week. And the venue did feel a little too pristine a setting for a singalong to neurotic masterpiece “Losing My Edge.”
It was on two songs from “American Dream” that the venue, the band and Murphy really came together. “Change Yr Mind,” which leapt from its recorded form — a wonderful circa-1980 Talking Heads pastiche — into a ghostly, hollowed-out glow. The very best moment of the show came next in “Tonite,” which started with an ominous, low rumble and built steadily toward powerful thrums that seemed to shake not only the chests of the audience, but the Anthem’s multiple balconies.
Ultimately, Tuesday’s uneven show was a mere echo of those life-altering LCD shows of yore, but it was also satisfying, enjoyable and professional. And more importantly, instructive: Don’t dwell on what happened in the past, LCD Soundsystem fans, but treasure what your band is now: a unique, American rock institution who can still occasionally bring the thrills.