Review: Lovebox 2016 – Saturday

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Even after two of the finest hours of my life standing in Victoria Park listening to 14 of their choicest cuts, it’s impossible to tell which component of LCD Soundsystem I adore the most. Perhaps it’s the vigour with which James Murphy and co. merrily strike cowbells throughout their sets. Perhaps it’s the sheer number of folks ambling around the stage’s setup of baffling synth equipment having mid-track conversations, sipping glasses of wine, and, at Lollapalooza, whirling out power tools for on-the-go repairs. Perhaps it’s the way they seamlessly incorporate ‘Someone Great,’ a harrowing tribute to a deceased therapist, directly between ‘Yeah,’ a frighteningly intense display of positive affirmation, and ‘Losing My Edge,’ their 2002 bow of spoken middle-aged rambles on the bastard youth (“I’m losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties”). Perhaps it’s that their farewell five years ago seemed so utterly definitive with its guest spots from Arcade Fire and Reggie Watts and its subsequent DVD (Shut Up And Play The Hits: The Very Loud Ending Of LCD Soundsystem) and rush to the heart of the sun at a time when nothing of the band appeared to be deteriorating that made the very suggestion that I would ever experience it live so absurd and overwhelming.

“We are retiring from the game,” they said. “Gettin’ out. Movin’ on.”

In hindsight, those words are so obviously engineered to famously backfire. With Murphy bathed in white light and bearing baggy robes, nothing other than ‘Us V Them’ (“The time has come / The time has come / The time has come today”) could bring the extravagant dance-punk with anything close to the right level of anticipation. That the band is so quickly executing at its former level is no surprise considering its appearance in some form of headline billing on every global festival worth its salt (see your Glastonburys and your Coachellas and, most importantly in this context, your Loveboxes) and the relatively stagnant setlist is a meticulous whirlwind of a greatest hits compilation. There is nothing really new to see – a first album with Columbia is expected soon, and something about the gorgeously crushing ‘Christmas Will Break Your Heart,’ their sudden comeback single from the back end of 2015, wouldn’t feel appropriate to close a mid-July festival, especially bathed as it was in sweltering splendour – but their act of catching up on lost time is simply divine.

It’s not really possible to expose yourself to Murphy for any length of time without developing a bit of concern and wanting to give him an emphatic hug, whether due to the intimate lyrical diversions or, towards the set’s close, his apparent need to cover his ears to get through ‘All My Friends.’ His congregation, however, was far too busy bawling out eyes or screaming out lungs or dancing off limbs (or all three at the same time) to do such a thing. His interjections were typically delightful, including a remark with 40 minutes to go about only having four songs left that was only very slightly off the truth thanks to a round of ‘Happy Birthday Pat Mahoney’ for the percussionist within ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.’ Had he chosen to relieve himself of duties with his signature square microphone (which I’m convinced is the reason for vocals in the LCD Soundsystem set sounding far better than any others on the main stage over the two days), he needn’t have had to look far for support: the park was filled with devotees there to savour the experience, showing themselves to be in fine voice throughout. Any dissatisfied punters would be ones still recovering from pricy trips to bid their adieus at Madison Square Garden.

All this came to wrap an utterly tremendous day in the park, seemingly engineered precisely for minimal overlap between the day’s stars. Pokémon Go fan SG Lewis began with a brief set of suave melodies from his Shivers and Yours EPs for a small audience that included his parents. Chet Faker, accompanied by his Work colleague Marcus Marr on guitar, threatened to sweat out of his shirt as he whizzed through a powerful disco on the main stage before finishing on a sublime ‘Talk Is Cheap.’ Though down a Christian Karlsson due to his commitments with Galantis, Miike Snow brought eccentric indie pop soon after, with singer Andrew Wyatt welcomely dispelling any trepidation regarding his vocal abilities with his delivery of iii’s singles and a highlights package of their self-titled 2009 debut.

After hearing ‘Silvia’ to have enjoyed every track of Miike Snow’s worth hanging around for, an early arrival for ODESZA gave me the chance to overhear some of their compatriots marvelling at the small stages the Seattle duo plays on this side of the pond. The sprawling odyssey though electronic intricacy in support of 2014’s In Return was at times barely distinguishable from their headline show at Troxy in March, though this is hardly a surprise given the complex setup operated by Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight on their symmetrical right-angled stations of percussive equipment and bespoke Ableton sessions, poised to play around at any moment with their archive of productions and remixes. This set did, however, feel far more impressive – perhaps down to the sound system, my positioning in relation to their revolving cast of live instrumentalists, or the enhanced atmosphere lent by the open early evening air. As everyone slunk down from shoulder seats after their dreamy take on Hayden James’ ‘Something About You,’ all that remained was just enough time for a superb dinner and overpriced cider set to Jungle’s two best tracks before locating a spot for Murphy’s grand finale.

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Official email person, rambly music writer, and former Records Editor at The Edge. Often found playing pop music too loud on Surge Radio.

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