The excited pulse of the crowd was quite tangible as MGMT took the stage at In the Venue Friday night. Both under-age youngsters and over-age scenester’s alike came to witness the group that became an almost overnight success with hits like “Electric Feel,” “Kids,” and “Time to Pretend.” MGMT’s deviation with their new release from the ‘Electric Feel’ of their earlier album Oracular Spectacular, didn’t diminish the overall turnout of the musical event as the show sold out. The venue was just as packed as ever with bodies pressed together and lining the walls eager to catch the sounds of the Brooklyn-based dynamic duo Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden. Or at least, they were eager to catch their earlier sounds.
The formerly synthpop group made a strong statement behind their sophomore album, Congratulations, telling their fans that they had no interest in making a record to further them on the path to stardom. Departing from many of their peers, the formerly hipster duo turned away from a current mainstream sound to a more vintage vantage point. Their deliberate step away took them deep into a world not often explored in the last 40 years by new wave bands – the expansive world of experimental psychedelic rock.
This departure from convention lead to an interesting if not dynamic show on Friday night. With many bands, fans stood around politely waiting for the appearance of the “greatest hits” part of the set list. With only two albums under their belt, the latest a decidedly un-commercial turn, there was intrigue as to how MGMT would approach the careful art of set list construction. They made it clear from the beginning that they were there to support their new album. They kicked off with the opener of their sophomore effort, “It’s Working.” However for many of the fans, it simply wasn’t. MGMT’s reception of the tune was as lukewarm as many of the critic’s reviews of Congratulations. A good many stood, zombie-like, mouths agape at the light show and images projected behind the duo onstage. Most finally began to show signs of life when MGMT played one of the only songs the fans knew from that album, the ‘would be’ single “Flash Delirium.” Nevertheless, the lion’s share of the fans’ enthusiasm and feverish displays were saved for favorites from Oracular Spectacular.
To their credit, the band did a good job surfing back and forth from new wave to old wave, incorporating many songs from both albums. Regardless of whether fans were for or against the change in sound, there is no denying that MGMT, despite heavy use of backing tracks, played a very mellow set that was somehow electric with its grooves from opener to encore. Combine the perfunctory acoustics, a bar serving generous drinks, an eye-catching light display, and an amazing set of songs all came together to create a vastly entertaining concert. For the most part fans left not only with neon colored posters and t-shirts, but bright eyes and satisfied smiles. While many people attending had low expectations, a good portion virtually came away with a new found appreciation for the bands live persona and unique styling skills.
MGMT will be touring behind Congratulations throughout the U.S. until late August. For more information such as tour dates and merchandise listings, head to the band’s official website at whoismgmt.com.