At midnight in Manchester, blue neon bathes the bricks of a former air-raid shelter under Piccadilly station. The floor is sardined with young clubbers and ageing, ecstatic ravers, all heralding a band currently at No 1 in the US.
Their whiskery frontman is concerned about considerate dancing (the venue is packed to nerve-racking levels) and ticking off people about taking pictures on their phones. “We’re OK, right?” asks James Murphy, smiling nervously as the crowd twists and heaves, every inch the concerned 47-year-old dad he is as well as a creator of punishingly good pop music.
Recently reunited six years after a farewell tour that took in a four-hour show at Madison Square Garden, New York, and a quintuple live LP, it makes sense for LCD Soundsystem to launch their UK tour here. This is the city of New Order and Factory Records, the group’s spiritual ancestors in terms of emotional, intellectual dance music, and in ongoing influences, if new album American Dream is anything to go by. (Talking Heads, Suicide and David Bowie are also stirred into that mix, the latter someone with whom Murphy worked on his last album, Blackstar.)
But they’re also topping the Billboard charts for the first time. Maybe it’s understandable that a group long preoccupied with anxiety, ageing and failure fed through ambitious, euphoric dancefloor pop have met their moment now.
They sound fantastic. Every two-note synth riff and oscillator-tweak (many from the undersung Nancy Whang) ricochets through the room. New tracks such as I Used To and Tonite (“The future’s a nightmare / And there’s nothing I can do / Nothing anyone can do about it”) hold their own against old classics such as Get Innocuous! and Someone Great. The latter, an affecting disco-banger about death, becomes a singalong tonight, which is testament to Murphy’s way with a glittering melody, and a phrase to match it. “When someone great has gone” the crowd hollers back at him.
Murphy is mesmerising and powerful throughout, backlit in white light like a friendly hulking bear, singing with a greater richness and warmth than ever before. Even a moment of antsiness about a keyboard malfunction before set closer All My Friends can’t spoil the night. He stands there under a glitterball, like the one that graced the cover of his debut album 15 years ago, surrounded by the people who know him best, and it works. In our uneasy times, this incongruous everyman feels absolutely right.