It’s past 9 p.m. on October 17, and the lines into The Anthem still stretch from both sides of the marquee. It’s cold for the first time in what seems like forever in DC, and in line, people chat restlessly. Maybe because the band was supposed to go on at 8 p.m., and maybe because, for many, this would be their first time at The Anthem, one of DC’s newest and biggest venues at The Wharf; but they are restless more than anything else because they are there to see LCD Soundsystem, who, after so publicly disbanding in 2011, had come back unexpectedly this year with a new record, American Dream, which is at worst on par with their previous records, and at best, a motherf—ing eagle.
There was no opener, but music played as we walked inside. I had a feeling the band wouldn’t go on for awhile, so we took time to explore before noodling to the front of the floor pit. The first thing about The Anthem that you notice is that it’s massive; it has the space and breadth of a cathedral. In the vestibule, you walk beneath dozens of cymbals, hanging like so many candelabra. The brass glints overhead and poor puns about hi-hats are made, and, in silence, you shake your head. Then you walk into the nave, so to speak, which somehow achieves the effect of holding 6,000 people, and yet never feels so big that the stage feels beyond reach, nor ever feels so crowded that you feel pressed for room to breathe. There’s mezzanine and balcony seating too, if you prefer not to stand in the pit.
The second thing that you notice about The Anthem is that you’ll want to move in. They sell food at a less expensive rate than the alcohol, and there’s a coffee stand on the mezzanine level. I was so taken by the place that I almost forgot I had come to see my favorite band (to whatever extent one can have a favorite band). Each and every detail inside is worked out. There are even what essentially look like chic Lite-Brites stage left, stage right and on the galleries that are configured to look like plush red carpet curtains.
LCD Soundsystem came on past 10 p.m., and then we danced ourselves clean for nearly two hours. Though the title of the documentary about their final performance, (or what they had taken to be their final performance), is called Shut Up and Play the Hits, this isn’t a singles-only band; simply put, when you shuffle LCD Soundsystem, you don’t skip songs. In the same way, the night was a mix of old tracks and songs off of American Dream.
Part of the original impetus for LCD Soundsystem was to make music that people would dance to and, aside for a pee break, they kept the crowd moving. This crowd wasn’t one for moshing either; it was like butt-to-crotch dancing, shake your booty (not arms) dancing. The standout track, though, was still “Losing My Edge.” It’s LCD Soundsystem’s OG debut single; lyrically it feels as relevant as ever, and musically has lost none of its power. It was an especially great track performed live. Frontman, James Murphy adlibbed new lyrics – “We all know now that Pharrell is really Daft Punk” – and combined with a light show, people were losing it. [Side note: I’ve never had anything to say about a light show before.]
I was there when LCD Soundsystem played The Anthem for the first time. I was there when LCD Soundsystem played “Oh Baby” live for the first time. I was there when LCD’s frontman called for a pee break toward the end of the show. And though I had often worried that The Wharf would become a gross concentration of wealth, where the only businesses able to make it were those that had already been making it, this show was something really special, and The Anthem is too. Most of their shows cost upwards of $40, but the National Symphony Orchestra will play for free on November 15.
The Anthem: 901 Washington Ave. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com