Re: Set At Forest Hills, NY Review
Forest Hills Stadium stands quietly against the quaint, storybook-esque neighborhood in Queens. It blends in. Celebrating 100 years, it has served as the backdrop for so many culturally significant moments in the fabric of popular music. The Beatles landed their helicopter on the grass courts here in 1964 before a show (a move that I’m sure the residents must have loved), Jimi Hendrix scared the living shit out of thousands of Monkees fans with his destructive approach to pop music, and Ray Charles graced the stage with Nina Simone for a legendary performance in 1966. Needless to say, history feels palpable on those old tennis courts, and this night felt no different. With LCD Soundsystem, Jamie XX, IDLES and L’Rain, the traveling Re:SET concert series assembled a bill that college radio DJ’s could have only dreamed of just a few years ago.
The forecast called for scattered thunderstorms (and fresh Canadian wildfire smoke wafting down from the great white north), but as the doors opened on a dewey Friday evening, the clouds began to part and the air felt crisp. A smattering of early concert goers eagerly flooded the damp court, pressing themselves tightly up against the railing. L’Rain (Taja Cheek) had already begun her set, beginning wordlessly as she and her band welcomed the crowd with a groundswell of swirling melodies, bursts of colorful synths and jittery percussion. The Brooklyn-based composer and multi-instrumentalist meandered through fragmented, disjointed harmonies blended with a gorgeous soundscape of lush instrumentation. For about 45 minutes, L’Rain caught and held tightly onto our attention, asking for our trust in pulling us through a set that bobbed and weaved through her 2021 project, Fatigue and then some. It was over seemingly as quickly as it had begun, though with no less of an impact.
IDLES were up next, the UK-based band that contains the energy of 100,000 nuclear bombs while simultaneously filled with love and compassion. The result is a “don’t fuck with me, I love you” blend of 21st century punk. Now, the floor of Forest Hills stadium is packed wall-to-wall with people, many of whom are bubbling over with excitement as the oversized screen behind the kit flashed their name in big, bold text. IDLES took the stage filled with piss and vinegar and the opening drum clicks of their track ‘Colossus’ bounced around the stadium, slowly inching the song to what their fans already knew was on the horizon: an explosive, emotionally cathartic release of tension. When that tension finally did rupture, all bets were off.
The crowd erupted into a frenzy as most of the GA section turned into a pulsating mosh pit; a superorganism of beer and sweat. IDLES slammed their foot on the gas and kept it there for over an hour, burning through mostly a medley of tracks from 2020’s Ultra Mono and 2021’s Crawler. Songs like ‘The Wheel’ and ‘Car Crash’ were almost made to be sung by 13,000 people at once. During “Danny Nedelko,’ guitarist Mark Bowen tossed himself into the front row and nearly directly on my head for the chorus, screaming “F.U.C.K Y.O.U” letter by letter directly into our faces. Their final song, ‘Rottweiler,’ ended with both a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s Respect and a “Fuck The King” chant, but not before singer Joe Talbot expressed their gratitude for being in the “arms of New York City once again.” Sidestage, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy was watching with a huge smile on his face (more on him later).
Forest Hills Stadium is now completely filled, and the sun is setting. The residual energy from the IDLES set was hard to shake, but Jamie XX was next. Standing in front of what I assume to be the largest disco ball in existence (or at least in Queens), he kicked off his DJ set by tossing us into a drum and bass-filled medley before throwing on his most recent single, ‘KILL DEM.’ Now, the stadium felt like a proper nightclub. Over the course of an hour, Jamie XX was captivating, playfully building tension with impossibly smooth dance tracks that kept you on your feet whether you wanted to or not. He capped his set with his 2022 single ‘LET’S DO IT AGAIN,’ his first since 2020. It’s a summery, euphoric tune with a stuttering chorus and a celebratory melody that translated beautifully to the open air setting such as this one.
The stage was now set for the night’s headliner: LCD Soundsystem. As the stage lights dimmed and the arpeggiated synth melody of ‘Get Innocuous’ began, the band walked out one-by-one to assume their positions. Frontman James Murphy took center stage in a striking white suit, stood at attention and waved earnestly at the crowd with a big smile. New York City is their home, and this was a homecoming. “We are a man down. Our dear friend Mr. Tyler Pope is feeling under the weather,” James announces as the intro to ‘I Can Change’ begins, “but we have a team of good friends to help us out.” With a setlist mostly teetering between Sound of Silver and This is Happening, the band seamlessly bounced between songs with hardly an awkward pause or break. During ‘Movements,’ (from their debut LP) a cacophony of distorted guitars and drums coalesced into an explosion of pure release, with guitarist Al Doyle jumping down onto one of the massive speaker cabs to angle his guitar into the crowd. What James Murphy & friends gave, Queens returned tenfold. The excitement and joy radiating through the crowd was clear, and the band was clearly working with it. A highlight of the set was their decision to bring out Adam Devonshire (IDLES) for their cover of Joy Division’s ‘No Love Lost’ – a moment that I’m sure fans of either band will not forget (let alone Devonshire himself). With the night coming to a close, a string of crowd favorites and hits were doled out. The melodramatic tinge of ‘New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down’ saw the entire stadium filled with the twinkling lights of a thousand cell phone flashes, while ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ seemed to test the structural integrity of the very floor as thousands of fans danced as one solid mass. At the close of their whirlwind set, James says “We didn’t know what to expect, but this feels fucking amazing.” Before ending with ‘All My Friends,’ he adds “this is our last song.” There is a noticeable “boo” coming from parts of the crowd, and he (lovingly) shoots back “Hey uh, everything comes to an end. Everybody dies – spoiler alert!”
Words by Conor Rooney
Purchase tickets for Re:Set HERE
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