Graham: LCD, GNR — delicate dance of the reunion tour
When you have to apologize for your band’s reunion, something’s not right.
This week, LCD Soundsystem confirmed months of reunion rumors with the announcement that the band, which called it quits in 2011, will return to headline this year’s Coachella festival.
That’s not all: The boutique New York dance-rock outfit will follow the Coachella performance with a full-scale tour and a new album, LCD frontman and founder James Murphy detailed in a lengthy post on the band’s website the day after the Coachella announcement.
The tone of Murphy’s post wasn’t jubilant, however. It was apologetic.
“We’ve always talked about how we’d never betray anyone who cares about us, but here we are now,” he wrote in the 1,500-word post. “Given the chance again to make new music with the people I care about, and who have given a big part of their lives to doing this weird thing together, and who wanted to do it again, I took it. And in doing so, I betrayed whoever feels betrayed by that action ... to you I have to say: I’m seriously sorry.”
In our current age, we’ve grown accustom to everything we once loved being resurrected in some form, whether it’s a favorite franchise — it only took “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” three weeks to become the highest-grossing film of all time — or a forgotten soda (welcome back, Crystal Pepsi!) Nothing goes away forever, and we’ve accepted that.
The reason for the hurt feelings behind the LCD reunion is the way the band’s breakup was handled. It was a long, drawn out play, punctuated with a farewell tour and a hugely hyped “final” concert at Madison Square Garden that was documented across several formats, including a documentary and a live album.
So coming back so quickly after only five years — the final concert was April 2, 2011, and the first of two Coachella performances comes April 15 — rubbed many fans the wrong way, and left them feeling like they’d been ripped off by the whole ordeal.
But should anyone be surprised by band reunions anymore? As festival paydays skyrocket along with fans’ demands to see their favorites back in action, probably not. The capitalist nostalgia machine keeps churning. But Murphy was different.
He’s not some gauche rock star or some flighty pop tart. He’s a 45-year-old man who built up an intimate relationship with his fans through the honesty in his music and his integrity as a performer, and he understood the full weight of what it meant to break up his band and what it now means to come back. It was poor form, and he knows that.
Contrast that with Guns N’ Roses, another reunited band that will share the bill with LCD at Coachella. The performance will mark Axl Rose’s first time sharing a stage with his bandmates Slash and Duff McKagen since the legendarily combustible band imploded after a 1993 concert in Rio.
No one cried foul at the GNR reunion, because no one expects much out of Axl Rose in the first place. He’s spent the better part of the last 30 years doing what he wants on his own terms. The GNR reunion is a pure money grab, and no one is holding that against Axl and company — they just want to see Axl and Slash together again, good or bad, to check it off their lists. And after holding out on performing with his former bandmates for more than 20 years — Axl even bailed on performing with them when GNR was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 — it’s time.
Is it time for an LCD return? That’s debatable. In the long run, the group will be fine. LCD disbanded at the height of its powers, and should come back lock, stock and two smoking barrels with a killer live show and excellent new music. (“Every show has to be better than the best show we’ve played before,” Murphy noted in his mea culpa.) Even the bitterness surrounding the group’s return will eventually dissipate — Jay Z’s retirement only lasted three years, and no one holds that against him anymore.
But the lesson learned is an important one: When your legacy is built on a trust between you and your audience, it hurts when that trust is broken.
Welcome to the jungle, indeed.