They’re really not much to look at. They don’t jump around a lot or pull any tricks out of the Boss’ playbook, unless you mean the boss at a graphic design firm, which frontman James Murphy could be mistaken for. They didn’t even bring along much of a hi-fi stage production on Thursday night in St. Paul, unless you count a giant disco ball and a swarm of strobe lights as newfangled theatrics.
Somehow, though, LCD Soundsystem remains an unusually compelling and masterfully electrifying live act, one that outshines its critically acclaimed, carefully crafted albums in concert with good, old-fashion musical chemistry and a playfully sneering approach on stage.
Especially in the dance-rock/synth-pop realm where they generally fit in — and where too many of the other hot acts perform like pre-programmed robots nowadays — they are genuine rock stars.
Thursday’s nearly sold-out, two-hour performance at Roy Wilkins Auditorium was the New York band’s first Twin Cities gig in seven years, five of which the group spent on hiatus. It was their third time playing St. Paul’s lowly, old auditorium, though, a space they and their crew know how to make work for them.
Murphy and his seven bandmates also know how to work their way up gradually, like most good dance acts do. The 47-year-old frontman started out singing with a Bryan Ferry plushness in the mellow opener “Oh Baby,” then turned to more of a sputtering, spazzy vocal delivery in the funky fan fave “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House.”
By the stunning fourth song “Call the Police” — the first single off the group’s long-awaited new album, “American Dream” — he turned downright manic as the music rose to a gusty tempo.
“There’s a full-blown rebellion, but you’re easy to confuse / By triggered kids and fakers and some questionable views,” he howled with abandon.
LCD would tear down the momentum and build it up again several more times over the duration of the show, fittingly reaching the highest point right at the end with “All My Friends,” which came off like a dance-punk version of U2’s “Bad” the way it fluidly rose into an emotional crescendo.
While older tunes still sparked the fieriest responses from the 4,000-plus fans — also including “I Can Change” and “Dance Yrself Clean” — the band left out a couple of its best-known oldies, “North American Scum” and “Drunk Girls.” In their place were the similarly smarmy “Emotional Haircut” and “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down,” the latter delivered like a lovely cabaret show tune until an ugly, full-blast finish.
Murphy was affably biting with his between-song comments, like when he advised one fan to stop holding up a cell-phone camera: “You’ll lose all the blood in your arm,” he politely offered. He also candidly forewarned why the encore break might be a tad longer than usual.
“When I was young, I didn’t have to pee so often,” he cracked. “It’s a long show.”
While the old venue’s shortcomings weren’t much of factor, it was still something of a letdown to have LCD playing the mid-size auditorium after pulling two- and three-nighters in smaller theaters in Detroit in Chicago this past week, and after many recent outdoor gigs elsewhere. Local fans deserve having them in a different, better place next time they’re in town.
Other than that, though, Murphy & Co. don’t need to change a thing.
Here’s the set list from Thursday night:
Daft Punk Is Playing at My House
I Can Change
Call the Police
You Wanted a Hit
Change Yr Mind
I Want Your Love (Chic cover)
New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends