Live in L.A.: LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, Sleigh Bells

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LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy / Photo by Erik Voake
WRITTEN BY
Mikael Wood

"I can change, I can change, I can change," James Murphy sang Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl, "if it helps you fall in love."

No need, homie: You had us within the first few bars of "Dance Yrself Clean," the slow-boil shuffle with which Murphy and his bandmates in LCD Soundsystem opened Friday's killer 90-minute blowout.

Headlining a hipster-friendly triple bill that also included Hot Chip and Sleigh Bells, LCD turned this upscale Los Angeles venue into a sweaty loft party with room for 18,000 or so shimmying Southern Californians. The only thing Murphy should adjust? His unfortunate declaration that this year's This Is Happening may serve as the band's final album.

The Soundsystem was seven strong: Murphy, keyboardists Nancy Whang and Gavin Russom, drummer Pat Mahoney, percussionist Matt Thornley, and guitarists David Scott Stone and Al Doyle (the latter of whom pulled double duty earlier in the evening with Hot Chip). Occasionally one of them would score an awesome feature, as when Doyle contributed a priceless early-'80s slap-bass lick to "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House," or when Russom freaked out on one of his vintage synthesizers near the end of "You Wanted a Hit."

But mostly the musicians worked together as a unified good-times groove machine, providing Murphy with exactly the backing he needed to send his tragicomic monologues sailing into the cheap seats.

"Someone Great" summoned an atmosphere of heady New Romantic regret, while "Home" rippled with hopeful Talking Heads polyrhythms. "All My Friends" was as impossibly tender as it always is. And nearly a decade after its initial appearance, "Losing My Edge" had lost none of its sweet-and-sour charm.

Even "Drunk Girls," This Is Happening's appealingly trashy Velvet Underground tribute, felt like a celebration of something important and big-hearted. "This is probably the most excited we've ever been," Murphy told the audience at the beginning of the show, and though that was probably just the frontman's beloved Champagne-and-whiskey talking, he and his crew of cool kids almost made you believe it.

Hot Chip were just as funky if a bit less jubilant in their hourlong set, which presented a harder-edged (and steel-drum-enriched) version of the English outfit's sleek electro-pop. That rough-up worked best in nerdy ditties like "One Life Stand" and "I Feel Better," where bespectacled singer Alexis Taylor's choir-boy vocals achieved some juicy tension with the band's disco-rock delivery.

Kicking off the night's festivities, Brooklyn's Sleigh Bells had no trouble filling the Bowl's vast dimensions with volume; if a band was ever made to take advantage of natural reverb, this red-needle noise-pop duo is it, as an almost comically loud "Crown on the Ground" demonstrated.

Personality, though, was a different matter Friday, with Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss struggling to connect in an environment more unforgiving than the tiny clubs that make Sleigh Bells sound like the biggest band on Earth.

Maybe they should hit up Murphy for some advice: That guy's got charisma to spare.

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