FACT: one of the first gigs I attended here after moving to this wonderful city was MGMT, at Sala Rossa, opening up for Yeasayer, way back in February 2008. Both bands had just released stellar debut records and were creating massive buzz on the Alternative scene. Fast forward 10 years and 4 albums, and, criminally, the Alternative world never really fully engaged with Yeasayer. The same cannot be said of MGMT, as a sold-out MTelus testifies to tonight; having just released their 4th record, their crowds are evidently as big as ever.
Electronic Avant-Pop Texan Matthew Dear is first up, though, and opens proceedings in moody fashion. A rumbling drum beat hammers away from his drum machine while he sings over it for the duration of his 45-minute set, and while a few in the crowd nod along, the response is mostly ambivalent, and most continue their conversations regardless of what’s happening on stage. The biggest cheer of the set comes in the form of a song that was introduced as being written for Tegan & Sara, though once the song starts, the attention fades away again pretty quickly.
MGMT’s arrival on stage begins with a keyboard player clad in medieval garb, who breaks the silence with a twangy distorted keyboard solo that sounds pretty medieval itself. The rest of the backing band soon joins him, followed last of all by Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, the duo that constitutes MGMT. The stage smoke illuminates red as they open with moody new song Little Dark Age, the title track of their new album, and after a brief “how you guys doing?!” to the masses assembled, the red lights turn green on When You Die. Flowers are projected across the back of the stage, followed by an INSANELY high-resolution video of a trip down a tunnel of pearls. Or eyes. I’m not entirely sure, but it was quite the sensory overload.
The familiar introduction of Time To Pretend follows that, unsurprisingly eliciting the biggest cheers of the set so far, and still sounds massive 10 years later. This time, the stage screen shows a deer with bright red antlers running around a circuit that looks like Tron, while blue and orange lights beam through the smoke. Whatever you think of MGMT, you can never call them unimaginative!
Just when you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to live music, Andrew sings the vast majority of the next song, She Works Out Too Much, pedalling on an exercise bike while also singing and playing keys. Yep, that really happened; hopefully, YouTube footage can attest to this over the coming days. Imaginative indeed!
The pace slows down momentarily on Alien Days, complete with distorted alien-sounding vocals, and When You’re Small, as Andrew and Ben play seated at the front of the stage with a miniature keyboard and guitar as a fish-eye cam broadcasts them on the stage screen in trippy fashion.
The mellow atmosphere is then quickly obliterated as the glorious Electric Feel gets everybody in the room dancing. It’s a little more percussion-heavy live, so it packs a little more of a punch and sounds pretty incredible. After the mellow Congratulations, Andrew endears himself to the crowd by proclaiming “it’s great to play Metropolis! Or this a cell phone building now??”, in reference to the recent venue name change. The cheers that follow suggest the crowd appreciates that Andrew is old-school enough to remember the old name.
Me And Michael gets a surprisingly big cheer for such a new song; some on the fence even made signs with some of the lyrics on! A glitter ball is projected on the screen, and the one that hangs from the ceiling of the venue stirs into life too, getting the dancing going once more before the epic Kids closes out the main set. Midway through, it cuts to the theme song of 80s movie The Never Ending Story, before cutting back to Kids to conclude in what is by now a pretty carnival atmosphere.
Clapping and foot-stomping beckons the band back on stage for a 2-song encore, which consists of Hand It Over and Weekend Wars, before the show ends for good after 1 hour and 25 minutes. No place in the set for the phenomenal Flash Delirium from the sophomore record, which is a shame, given that it’s been played many other nights of the tour. Nonetheless, overall it’s a great return for MGMT.
Little Dark Age
When You Die
Time to Pretend
She Works Out Too Much
When You’re Small
Me and Michael
Kids / The Never Ending Story (Limahl cover)
Hand It Over
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Jean-Michel Lacombe