Appreciation of a concert documentary often depends on one’s interest in the band at the center of that doc. So take with perhaps the necessary grain of salt that I loved “Shut Up And Play The Hits,” that focuses on the final days of LCD Soundsystem highlighting their epic last show at Madison Square Garden. For the uninitiated LCD Soundsystem is the brainchild of James Murphy, a DJ and producer who in 2002, decided to put out his own record of dance music, recorded with live instruments instead of samples and synthesizers. What started as a few live gigs where the musicians he’d gathered had to learn the songs and translate them live basically acting as a “cover band” eventually grew into arguably one of the great bands of the last decade and a major force to be reckoned with live. But after 3 albums - each with its share of singles that would be inescapable at any dance party in the last decade - Murphy decided to call it quits.
The film follows him during the final days of the band, that he has willfully split up because according to the frontman, he’s 42 and wants to do other things with his life. The doc follows a quiet/LOUD/quiet contrast of Murphy getting out of bed to walk his dog in Williamsburg with clips of him leading a crowd of thousands at MSG going absolutely nuts. The film is about 2/3rds performance so if you’re not already familiar with LCD Soundsystem, ‘Shut Up’ doesn’t give you a big rundown of the band’s history, instead threading in bits here and there from an interview between Murphy and writer Chuck Klosterman. But the good news is the performance footage is electric. If you weren’t at the show, this will make you feel like you were there. Even if you watched the webcast (the concert streamed live on YouTube) you haven’t seen it like this.
Featuring minimal wide shots or sweeping camera moves over the audience, instead the film is shot like an observer on the stage by a handful of cameramen including the directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace (who also helmed the Blur doc “No Distance Left To Run”) with an assist by Spike Jonze. Also: the film is LOUD. When it screened in the Spaghetti Warehouse at SXSW, the venue had been transformed by Nike into a ‘2001’-like black void with speakers that were literally rattling our insides. (It was awesome.) The non-performance bits are just as compelling, which made me wish at times we had gotten a few more abbreviated glimpses at certain songs (instead of playing each song in the film from beginning to end) so we could get a little more of the offstage stuff. Seeing Murphy face a huge storage space full of his band’s equipment he’s chosen to sell off and break down is gripping stuff. If you’re not a fan, chances are you will be by the end. Please come back, LCD Soundsystem. The world needs you.