MGMT bring disco-bliss, added maturity and at last, a sense of accepting their popularity to Manchester.
Popularity was an unwanted pregnancy for MGMT
. After releasing Oracular Spectacular
in 2008 they spent two albums running away from their own hits and the bright-eyed pubescent attention they brought. A decade later, they are touring a new album of pop songs cut with the same skill that it took for their first meteoric record but with darker, deeper results.
The final night of this tour comes to Manchesterâs Albert Hall
, which is overflowing with mop-haired, flowery-shirted lads who remember MGMT from the soundtrack to the first FIFA game they owned. One fears that the crowd could wait an hour and a half in silence for âKidsâ to come on, but they are in fact thoroughly invested in the new stuff, which should be somewhat of a relief for the Connecticut duo and co on stage.
There are still many who are clearly here for the ten-year-old hits that have haunted MGMT. The three-headed monster of âKidsâ, âElectric Feelâ and âTime to Pretendâ that dragged these guys to the top of 2008âs charts will no doubt make an appearance tonight. But although these songs have an incendiary effect on the audience, they are not delivered with the same care as the back catalogue nor show the creative depth that MGMT does possess.
A handful of tracks from LDA
, released earlier this year, come out early to show this. âWhen You Dieâ is the perfect performance piece, with a coast-rock rhythm and easy lines for the crowd to bark back like âGo fuck yourselfâ and âIâm not that niceâ, lyrics that seem aimed at a world that has struggled to accept MGMTâs hardening change in sound.
âJamesâ showers the room with melodies and disco chords, but thereâs enough crunch in the bass to give it a heavier edge. Sandwiched between these songs though is âTime to Pretendâ, which sounds lazier in its layering and doesnât seem to enthuse the band
members. The place is bouncing, but this is the audienceâs making.
The quality of new songs stays consistent throughout the night and they are given some great stage and technical attention. During âTSLAMPâ, an iPhone floats on a giant LED backdrop like a religious symbol, the joke lost on those in the crowd whoâve Instagram-ed the whole evening.Â âLittle Dark Ageâ borders on Bauhaus with doom-y Moog keys and the room is filled with red smoke to make the Albert Hall feel even more gothic than usual.
Their song choice hits a snag when the subtle brilliance of seven-minute psych tune âSiberian Breaksâ from 2010âs Congratulations
gets lost in audience chatter. Itâs an odd selection, one for the hard-core fans that was always going to be hard to pull off in this setting. But the extended instrumental they follow this with, reminiscent of Pink Floydâs âOn the Runâ, is mind-blowing, whilst songs like âWeekend Warsâ and âOf Mice, Birds and Monstersâ make a better impression than their more successful Oracular Spectacular siblings.
To be sure, âKidsâ and âElectric Feelâ are such uncompromising bangers that you canât not smile and dance to them. Unless youâre MGMT. They try to vary their performances of these songs with extended soloing and middle-eights, yet something sounds missing in the mix â a look at the bandâs bored faces suggests it might just be a love of playing them for the thousandth time.
But on the basis of the rest of the night, MGMT need not resent their own music anymore. Whatâs never been clear is what band MGMT want to be. The moodier pop of LDA
is the closest theyâve ever sounded to satisfied and this shows in the performance of their new music. More importantly, people are fucking with them again for all the right reasons.
Perhaps the most significant incident of the night is when the band plays âMe and Michaelâ. The Italo-esque tribute to friendship has everyone singing under the supervision of a brightly lit disco ball and it is sheer bliss. The band bring a soft toy dog on stage with them to add some extra childish glee, but the irony is that this is a real moment of maturity for MGMT, who have proved they are no longer a three-hit-wonder â they are a band making the pop music they want to make, to the best of their ability, at last happy with the popularity it has purchased.
Photo credit: Patrick Gunning
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