The crowd gathered to see MGMT play at In the Venue Friday night was as diverse as I’ve ever seen at a concert. ---The packed audience included everyone from elementary school kids escorted by their parents to middle-aged couples undoubtedly enjoying a night away from the kids.
The number of demographics represented in the crowd speaks to both the band's popularity and the universal appeal of their particular brand of psychedelic electro-pop.
MGMT, formed at Wesleyan University by Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, rocketed to fame on the popularity of its first album, Oracular Spectacular, which included catchy singles like “Time to Pretend” and “Kids.” Their sophomore effort, Congratulations, feels more subdued and cohesive. It also seems to me to lack any automatically recognizable breakout hit, which is not necessarily a bad thing for an album, but which made for a somewhat awkwardly paced concert experience.
MGMT opened with “Song for Dan Treacy,” from Congratulations, playing in front of an immense white backdrop consisting of a backdrop and an arched, wave-like piece set slightly forward. Throughout the first few songs, the set was lit from the front with different colored lights and the band seemed rather subdued. However, as soon as they broke into their fourth song, “Electric Feel,” the set, band and audience all came alive. The white backdrop was suddenly lit from behind by lights that alternated between spelling out M-G-M-T and racing on and off in a variety of dazzling patterns. The audience sang along and danced for most of the song, and lead singer Andrew Vanwyngarden teased afterward that the audience would have to dance for the next song too.
The patterns and images displayed on the architectural backdrop became more elaborately psychedelic as the concert went on, but the pacing of the songs themselves felt haphazard. If the band had stuck to songs solely from their second album, they might have had room to expand and explore the lush sonic landscapes that characterize that album, but switching back and forth between, for example the 12-minute long “Siberia Breaks” from Congratulations and their first single, “Time to Pretend,” from Oracular Spectacular did neither song justice. “Siberia Breaks” felt rushed, scattered, and hectic, while “Time to Pretend” had a melancholy, pared down feel that seemed to put a damper on the crowd’s enthusiasm for the hit.
However, despite the moments that felt too fast or too slow, the concert was a feast for both the eyes and the ears. The integration of the backdrop and its projected images enhanced the experience without being too flashy or distracting and paired well with the vivid dreaminess of many of the songs. MGMT set a theatrical mood for their show, even though the tone of the concert didn’t always work with some of the songs they played. Still, you can’t blame them for trying to do something far outside of the traditional concert box, and for that alone they deserve a round of applause.