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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Kendrick Lamar and LCD Soundsystem close out Voodoo 2017's opening night

Posted By on Sat, Oct 28, 2017 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem performing Oct. 27 at Voodoo. - PHOTO BY ROGER HO/VOODOO
  • James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem performing Oct. 27 at Voodoo.

Beginning at a punctual 7 p.m., with a fan in a homemade Daft Punk-meets-Tron costume making his way to the center of the crowd, LCD Soundsystem arrived to the sounds of 1979’s Skatt Bros. cult classic Halloween jam “Walk the Night.” From there, a whirlwind hourlong set spanned LCD Soundsytem's 2005 self-titled debut album to its 2017 return American Dream, leaving little room for anything but dancing in the crowd on opening night of 2017’s Voodoo Music + Arts Experience on Oct. 27.

The trebly bass riff opening “Call The Police” signaled this would be the loudest set of the day, and the explosive coda on “Get Innocuous!” confirmed it. James Murphy led a nearly nonstop, breathless hour mapped out in the sweat stains on his back and held a steady pace throughout the set with the band’s addictive dance music that seemed to only get louder. A massive glittering disco ball above the stage was enough instruction to dance.
If LCD Soundsystem is Murphy orchestrating an electrical storm, Gavin Russom is in its eye, sending out pulsing electronic textures powering each song, with Nancy Whang adding synth layers from stage right. A boxy synth riff on “Tribulations,” from its 2005 self-titled debut album, was followed by that album’s chaotic “Movement,” a three-minute No Waving convulsion in a set that stuck to dancefloor punk.

The middle of the set connected the Depeche Mode-inspired “Tonite” with the kinetic funk and moody Gang of Four tribute “Emotional Haircut” — both from 2017’s American Dream — with an atmosphere-building “Home” and a few moments inside Chic’s “I Want Your Love.”

The band closed with fan anthems “Dance Yrself Clean” (which a shirtless Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bro declared “awesome” and “from the new album” [it’s 12 years old]) and “All My Friends,” Murphy’s gorgeous, emotional diagnostics of coming to terms with the speed of life, powered by Russom’s frenetic pounding on a single piano chord.

“Goodnight, you guys,” Murphy said to close out the set. “Have a good rest of your weekend. Happy Halloween.” (The band performs a second night in New Orleans at a late-night show at the Orpheum Theater Oct. 28.)

Murphy also preemptively introduced that stage’s headliner and the closing act for Voodoo’s first night: Kendrick Lamar.

click to enlarge Kendrick Lamar presided over a massive crowd at Voodoo Oct. 27. - PHOTO BY ROGER HO/VOODOO
  • Kendrick Lamar presided over a massive crowd at Voodoo Oct. 27.

Lamar has been to New Orleans several times since the release of 2012’a good kid, m.A.A.d city, and each time brings a different Lamar. His stellar 2015 show at the Civic Theatre on his intimate Kunta’s Grove Sessions tour showcased perfectly his acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly. That performance brought a thrilling, living-room dance party from every inch of Lamar’s guts and soul into a sardine-packed theater, with a band and literal couch with him onstage, and the crowd just a few feet away, digesting every word.

His Voodoo appearance follows 2017’s DAMN., his fiery fourth album that trades the jazz free fall on Butterfly for Lamar’s voice placed front and center, offering lean yet complex, unrestrained yet tightly wound lyrics in 14 all-caps tracks.

When Lamar appeared onstage Oct. 27, he was alone, in a gray-and-white Nike jumpsuit, surrounded by nothing. Meet Kung-Fu Kenny, the emcee’s alias introduced in three vignettes played on giant screens throughout his set, framing his latest incarnation through Enter the Dragon-meets-Blaxploitation action comedy.

Backed by an invisible band, Lamar kicked off with an explosive “DNA.” and “ELEMENT.” from DAMN., then wove into the high-powered G-funk of “King Kunta” followed by a few lines from Future’s “Mask Off” before dipping into “LOVE.”

“It’s been a long time since I seen you, don’t you agree?” Lamar asked. Though he lost the rare intimacy of a medium-sized venue, the huge crowd roaring for him at Voodoo didn’t seem to mind — he appeared to ask them individually, and his eyes darted around the crowd, seemingly making eye contact with the first several rows through every word of every song. He stopped for a minute between songs at one point, soaking in the golden light blasting behind him, to look at the crowd and take it all in.

As a slow-motion current filled the screen behind him, Lamar sent out “Swimming Pools” to his “Day 1 fans” and followed with “LOYALTY.”

The opening lines of “XXX.” played over a slowly waving American flag behind him: “America, God bless you if it's good to you. America, please take my hand.” Adding to the heightened drama, a harsh cut to black was followed by a stage-filling neon pink noir.

Lamar closed with “m.A.A.d. City,” “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” and Butterfly anthem “Alright” and DAMN. hit “HUMBLE.”

The lights went down, and literal fireworks popped behind the stage, lingering above the new Wisner Bridge where a few people were standing to listen, hoping to catch a glimpse.

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