At the pinnacle of the band’s critical and financial success, the decision to lay LCD Soundsystem to rest was and remains a conundrum. James Murphy, the creative mind behind the band, started making music under the LCD guise in his 30s with no expectations other than to have some fun, but when his dance-centric tunes started to catch the public ear, he decided to form a band that could perform his songs live. Years later, putting a massive bookend on the project, Murphy and the crew booked Madison Square Garden for their final show. With the Sundance preemed Shut Up And Play The Hits, directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern documented not only LCD Soundsystem’s final live performance, but managed to construct a highly conflicted portrait of Murphy over the 48 hours prior to the event. The question isn’t whether or not his final show will be a success, but rather, is he making the right decision in breaking up the one thing that has brought success to his life?
Briefed with a feedback drenched show prepping intro that cuts directly to the reflective destitution that Murphy awakens to the following morning, we know from the title card that we are not in for just a straight concert film. The camera follows Murphy around as he prepares for the show, meeting and greeting old friends, family and random hangers on, and between each conversation his eyes begin to glaze over in emotional discord. As select song performances start to grace the screen, an existential exchange between Murphy and the quick witted pop culture commentator Chuck Klosterman fill the spaces in between. They get into the meanings of art and getting old and the underlying reasons why LCD Soundsystem is shutting down, all the while having a very real conversation amidst a restaurant, not once playing to the camera.
Modern concert docs often have a tendency to distract from the authenticity of an event or performance by drawing attention to themselves with unnecessarily fast editing and repetitious, planned camera movements, but Lovelace and Southern have stayed true to the hand-held, direct cinema style of their concert going forefathers in D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers. With a large cast of experienced music capturing camera operators that include names like Spike Jonze (who worked with LCD on their video “Drunk Girls”) and Giles Dunning (who was the cinematographer of The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights), they provide a highly naturalistic encapsulation of the event as a whole, with backstage planning, crowd reactions and plenty of overwhelming moments of emotional deluge.
Oscilloscope has really outdone themselves with this one. In their three disc Blu-ray edition, they have not included the film in three different formats as you might guess. The first disc contains the feature film, looking and sounding quite stellar with an HD-DTS 5.1 master track and crisp, clear visuals, as well as a few fun bonus features. Spanning the other two discs is the entirety of the massive final concert. All three discs come packaged in Oscilloscope’s signature recycled material, gatefold casing. Incredibly cool release.
LCD Soundsystem: Live at Madison Square Garden
Free of any outside meddling, this is the entire epic conclusion of LCD Soundsystem. The almost four hour concert is included uncut, spanning two full Blu-ray discs for maximum visual and audio quality, and you can really tell. It sounds incredible.
The deep digging interview with James Murphy conducted by Chuck Klosterman that the film is based around actually took place over three hours. Nearly 20 minutes of their cut conversation is collected here, broken into segmented questions.
Choir Rehearsal Outtake
Intermittently throughout the band gets backing from a small male choir to bring a bigger, more intricately layered sound to the enormous venue. Here we get a quick 4 minute behind the scenes of preparation for the show.
Swearing Reel Outtake
Keith Wood, Murphy’s longtime manager, has a bit of a mouth, which is highlighted in this 14 second clip.
“Catching Up With Keith”
In the wake of the concert, Keith went into retirement, leaving his music business career for a quiet retirement in the country where he could paint and spend time with nature. Strapped with sound gear, Murphy goes to visit his old friend to see what he’s been up to for the last year.
Splendidly capturing the contemplation and celebration of the event, the trailer gives an adequate preview of the film.
While the film works as a wonderful nod to concert film classics, it manages to use the performance itself not just as a celebratory time capsule, but as the central conflict of a very personal struggle. Either too afraid to accept fame and fortune, too proud to continue to work within the machine that is the major label music business, or too scared of damaging the pristine pedigree of his creation with potential failures, Murphy has quit his own band under the guise of noble and just reasonings of his own conception. Whether he has made the right decision or not has yet to be determined, but Shut Up And Play The Hits surely has brought the question to the forefront while celebrating the band through the epic final show they managed to go out with.
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