Live Review

MGMT, Leeds O2 Academy

Playing more than 100 minutes straight of music is no mean feat.

MGMT have made two great albums, and arguably among the finest in the world of 21st century ‘indie’. [Please note: DIY refuses temporarily to enter the debate whether or not ‘Congratulations’ was indeed their third album. But please feel free to discuss below. We like comments]. But can this band of unintentionally (and inaccurately) branded ‘electro poppers’ cut it as much live?

We put on our Ray-Bans and go undercover.

Following The Dummy’s Guide to girl power pop punk by Dum Dum Girls, MGMT receive a heroic welcome back to Leeds O2 Academy after a two year absence, and launch straight into a trio of their poppier moments: the excellent Zombie-like recent single, ‘It’s Working’ (it has a harpsichord effect on it, so it must be genius), fan favourite ‘The Youth’ and ‘Flash Delirium’. The mood is joyous and that’s even before they bring out the first big gun of the night, ‘Electric Feel’, which converts the joy into a great big sparking current of funk-laden euphoria that sets the whole room alight. The epically haired lead guitarist, James Richardson totally gets his groove on too, by twirling at the bass breaks, and it seems that the band is really feeding off the energy of the audience and, god forbid, enjoying themselves on stage.

Mid-set, MGMT continue to play a well-balanced ratio of ‘old’ to ‘new’ by throwing in the best cuts from ‘Oracular’ and ‘Congratulations’ (such as ‘The Handshake’ and ‘Song for Dan Treacy’) alongside a more obscure number from one of their EPs about virgin sex called ‘Indie Rokkers’ (obscure enough to garner over 1 million YouTube hits, of course.) The flashing lights and mesmerising visuals throughout this part of the show are stunning. We see dancing women in LSD colours, multiplying across the video screen, and the stage even doubles as a Church service setting, steeped in ethereal blue light, when the organ-led acoustic soul of ‘I Found A Whistle’ is showcased. By the time that MGMT are into the second hour, they have displayed an impressive breadth in style and skill by keeping the variety of sounds and ambience fresh for their audience members.

The song ‘Weekend Wars’, however, (no irony intended) is where MGMT’s struggle against uninterested punters really sets in. Numbers of drinks sold at the bar in the next room then reach an all-time high when they start on the intriguing 12 minute epic ‘Siberian Breaks’, with its distorted cross-sections of Belle and Sebastian, Beach Boys and Syd Barrett. It’s a real shame, as it features the most hypnotic vocal performance by Andrew VanWyngarden of the evening, particularly on the musical dream sequences where you start to feel like you are Dustin Hoffman in a scuba suit, basking in the sun to the Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack that has been stalking him throughout The Graduate. And herein lies their problem: MGMT are a surrealist, leftfield concept band who have an indie pop aesthetic; which has led to the writing of a few monster hits for which they need not apologise: not to us and especially not to their bank balance. But it’s hard to know whether or not the incessant chant for ‘Kids’ towards the end of the set is more an annoyance to the band than recognition for which they are actually thankful. Tonight, they seem to enjoy it; with both Ben and Andrew ditching their instruments to dart around the stage like drunken loons doing Karaoke on a Mamma Mia-themed cruise. It is highly entertaining, and the whole crowd, from back to front, lap it up. Little do they realise that the joke is (quite possibly) on them. The set concludes with the mellow ‘Congratulations’, before the band returns for a well-received encore. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is there to witness it.

Overall, MGMT’s musical performance tonight definitely did enough to lift themselves from the mixed reviews of their live shows from the ‘Oracular Spectacular’ tour and had enough of everything to please both the indie hardcore and Daytime Radio 1 fans alike. Playing more than 100 minutes straight of music is no mean feat, and the band, in this sense, certainly gave value for money and hit all the right musical stops along the way. This was a gig that got your head nodding and your body busting a few high-octane dance moves at the relevant points. And for managing that, Andrew and Ben and their live band definitely deserve a great big congratulations. What some members of the crowd deserve, on the other hand, we’re far too polite to say.

Tags: MGMT, Features

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