Review: LCD Soundsystem, Method Man & Redman, Martin Garrix at X Games
Overheard on the bus: “So is LCD Soundsystem just that one old guy or what?”
Extreme exits: Hundreds of audience members sprinted out of the venue at the end of Martin Garrix’s set, attempting to beat the crowd to the Buttermilk bus corrals. And who can blame them, with the temperatures dipping far below freezing? But crossing the frozen tundra of the X Games created a lot of slips and falls and carnage. This could be a new event for ESPN. It’s at least as legitimate a sport as the Harley uphill.
Sweaty souvenirs: Method Man tossed his hand-warmers into the crowd at the conclusion of Saturday’s set. It’s like the X Games answer to the sweaty scarf Wayne Newton was known to toss his admirers in Vegas.
A small but serious quibble: LCD Soundsystem wrote arguably the best powder day ski playlist song ever made: “Pow Pow.” They didn’t play it at X Games. Apparently they almost never play it live, but if there’s ever a time to bust it out, it’s when you’re at a snowsports event, playing to a crowd of skiers and snowboarders who are dancing in the snow.
Next gen: “Wu-Tang is for the children” was an ironic catchphrase when Ol’ Dirty Bastard coined it in the 1990s. But the prophecy has come to pass: several very young children head-bobbed alongside their parents to Method Man & Redman.
Toward the tail end of their phenomenal X Games set, Method Man & Redman conducted an informal demographic survey of the festival audience. By a show of applause, Redman asked the crowd whether they were born in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s or 2000s.
“Where my ’80s crack babies at?” he asked with a laugh.
The ’90s-born segment won out, which — along with the sizable representation from the ’00s — suggests that a majority of the crowd was in diapers or unborn when these rappers released most of the timeless songs they played in the snowy outdoor venue at Buttermilk. Nonetheless, these young fans definitely knew the pair’s classic rap songs, and attempted to sing along with them.
For this young crowd with a taste for the past, Friday and Saturday’s concerts offered a mix of the old and the new with a stellar nostalgia-soaked set of 1990s rap by Method Man & Redman, a euphoric dance party orchestrated by LCD Soundystem that stuck mostly to the band’s pre-breakup material from 2010 and earlier, juxtaposed with a spectacle from 21-year-old Martin Garrix on Friday night that gave X Games a fierce and fiery dose of now.
In his Aspen debut, Garrix opened the three-day festival Friday night with a 75-minute performance that showcased why the baby-faced Dutch DJ and producer has become a global phenomenon. Dressed unassumingly in a hoodie, jeans and side-part, Garrix orchestrated an extravaganza of sound and fury.
He had smoke machines and pyrotechnics and laser lights. He had two overlaid video screens, showing selfie-style closeups of him at work on his DJ console. He had fireworks exploding from the top of the stage, coordinated with his biggest bass drops (yes, he also played music).
Musically, Garrix is unafraid of beauty — unlike a lot of EDM acts, he has a sense of pace and melody. He’s willing to stretch out a sample of an orchestra or an organ piece, patiently building track upon track before exploding it all with epileptically high BPM or a bone-rattling bass.
Garrix doled out remixed versions of his biggest hits throughout the show, playing the soaring “Now That I’ve Found You” and his 2013 breakthrough “Animals” early on. He closed with successive spins of his poppiest offerings “So Far Away,” “Waiting for Love,” the instrumental “Pizza” and his recently released “Scared to be Lonely.” In between, he showcased an unnamed, unreleased track and genre-hopped with a Euro-house take on Post Malone and 21 Savages’ “Rockstar” and a WTF way-back machine sample of the mid-’80s hit “Rhythm of the Night” and a quick singalong-ready remix of “Seven Nation Army.”
The set worked up the X Games crowd to near dangerous levels. Garrix stopped the show twice to implore fans up front to stop pushing one another. At one point, he said the fire marshal was threatening to cut the concert short if the audience didn’t stop crushing toward the front.
Whether you blame all the Monster drinks and caffeinated beef jerky going around, or the addition of a cash bar to the general admission area, this crowd was sloppier than most in the four years of ticketed shows at the 6,000-capacity X Games pop-up venue — a stark difference from Saturday’s good-vibes audiences.
METHOD MAN & REDMAN
As the sun dropped over the mountains Saturday evening, Method Man & Redman opened their one-hour performance with “Errbody Scream” from their 2009 collaborative album, but otherwise they stuck to the old-school material and repped ’90s hip-hop with pride. They both burnished and lived up to the legend that preceded them in a throwback performance that blended humor and consummate rhyme skills.
Method Man explained at the outset that the duo needs two things from the crowd for a successful show: “weed and energy.” The crowd — though sparser than the primetime concerts — brought a lot of both.
Method Man wore a Native Roots sweatshirt from the local pot shop and Redman took the stage carrying an oxygen tank. They needed all the oxygen they could get, powering through a no-frills oldies hit parade with none of the bells and whistles of the Garrix spectacle — and none of the pre-recorded vocals Garrix leaned so heavily on — instead relying only on their voices and the beats provided by the two DJs behind them.
“Can we act like it’s the ’90s in here tonight?” Redman asked the enthusiastic audience early on.
They pulled from both of their immortal individual catalogs, from their albums as a duo and did several Wu-Tang Clan classics and went as far back as Redman’s ’92 hit “Time for Some Action” (and back to the dawn of hip-hop with a cover of “Rapper’s Delight”). They didn’t phone it in and they didn’t appear to have lost a step since their heyday, nailing Method Man’s “Bring the Pain” and “Method Man,” Redman’s “Let’s Get Dirty” and “I’ll Be Dat,” and truncated versions of Raekwon’s “Ice Cream” and the LL Cool J posse track “4, 3, 2, 1.” They even tugged at the heartstrings a bit with an Ol’ Dirty Bastard tribute cover of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”
They got a bit ornery about the state of rap today, not naming names but dissing lazy “Gucci Gang”-syle MCs with a handful of rants about the way it used to be.
“Remember when you could listen to a rapper, understand the lyrics and hear what they’re saying?” Redman asked at one point. “Remember when rappers gave you content in a song?”
You could write this off as a grumpy, get-off-my-lawn take from a bitter oldster, but Method Man & Redman actually backed up their complaints by putting on a performance that would blow away most any younger rapper. That rant, for instance, was followed by the pair’s “Y.O.U.” — which showcases some of the fastest and sharpest rhymes ever put on wax. (They had to suck down some oxygen to pull it off, but still.)
Wu-Tang night continued at X Games when, a few hours later, Swedish Big Air skier Henrik Harlaut won gold wearing a Wu-Tang sweatshirt, flashed a Wu “W” hand sign to the cameras and briefly joined Method Man & Redman onstage for their televised “Da Rockwilder” performance inside the Buttermilk superpipe.
“Hi, everybody,” James Murphy said with a wave as LCD Soundsystem took the stage late Saturday. “It’s super cold.”
Murphy performed in a heavy-duty blue parka and bomber hat, fronting a seven-member incarnation of the band that appeared outfitted for an Antarctic expedition. All except for drummer Pat Mahoney, who learned a few measures into “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” that he can’t play while wearing gloves (he soon shed his jacket, too).
Murphy commented often on the single-digit temperature at this odd outdoor gig. Midway through the set he gratefully marveled: “I’m amazed you’re all still here because its f—ing freezing.”
But if the harsh cold was the stated theme of the set, it didn’t hamper the music, which bathed an adoring audience in warm versions of LCD’s deadpan highbrow synthy dance rock and casually worked the crowd into a gleefully dancing mob with propulsive electro-grooves.
In an odd bit of staging, the band included a big countdown clock facing the crowd that ticked down the seconds on their 90-minute performance. It made for an anticlimactic experience, but otherwise the band never seemed like they were in a rush to get off stage.
Though their comeback “American Dream” album from last year was recently No. 1 on the charts, LCD seems to know it’s an institution and not the kind of band that hits the road to push a new product. They stuck mostly to songs from their 2002 to 2010 run as the coolest band in America, playing a version of the air-tight and festival-tested set they’ve perfected since their ongoing reunion tour began last summer.
Of the dozen songs in the set, just two came from “American Dream” — the slow burn anthem “Tonite,” which won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording on Sunday, and the haunting “Call the Police” (both high points) — but otherwise stuck with nostalgia and fan favorites like “Us v Them,” “Get Innocuous,” “You Wanted a Hit,” and closing with the one-two punch of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends” (after which synth player Nancy Whang shouted out “RIP Warren Miller!” in a nod to the ski country icon).
Forget the cold — this band is still the coolest.
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Rock & Roll Hall of Famer John Oates is bringing back the concept of his 7908 Aspen Songwriters Festival for a virtual benefit concert to help feed the hungry.