To tell the truth, this is the last time.
At 9:15 PM, April 2nd, 2011. James Murphy sees thousands of his friends. Roughly three and a half hours later, Murphy bids farewell to them with a closing ode to New York, a eulogy at his band’s living funeral.
I enter Madison Square Garden at around 6:45 and pick up some swag at the merch booths. Nearby, we take a complimentary stock photo, courtesy of Absolut. And you know what? I’m excited enough to actually pose. Maybe that’s because of the uniform — everyone, including me, is wearing black and white, as requested by Murphy. Soon enough, we head into the fray, waiting impatiently through the fairly poor opener, Liquid Liquid.
Granted, by now I’m feeling It slightly less, which is disappointing. But then something amazing happens. The lights dim, and Murphy steps on stage and It hits the fan. Immediately they play a crowd–pleaser (“Dance Yrself Clean”) and keep them coming until they hit some of their earlier pieces, like “Tribulations.” Unfortunately, I’m not the biggest fan of some of the earlier stuff, and neither is the rest of the audience, as people begin sitting some songs out, but still rocking.
Then strobes kick in and they move past a bizarre rendition of the dense “45:33.” They move into the last quarter of the set, introducing Arcade Fire for one song and re–energizing the crowd. And for me? This is what I came for. While it may be seizure–inducing, I try and imagine that I’m staring into the eyes of God. And as the show moves on, and Murphy feels remorse, maybe I am at least staring into the soul of a reluctantly aging rocker as he faces the end.
The band begins closing with a soulful rendition of “Home,” as audience–submitted footage shot from airplane windows plays in the background. As it drowns out, Murphy leaves the stage without a word, and we all cheer on and on for him. Within five minutes they’re back for an encore, closing with an emotional rendition of “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.” As the song reaches a climax, hundreds of black and white balloons drop from the ceiling as the formal, living funeral draws to a close. Right now, it feels like someone great is gone.