MGMT were made for venues like The Academy. Packed to the rafters with vivacious fans who stop just a touch short of hero worship, the Connecticut natives – dressed in thrift store chic (pink t-shirts and purple skin tight trousers abound) and lit by swirling blends of purple and green – proceed to demonstrate exactly why they’re not playing somewhere substantially bigger. Even at just over a month’s notice, there’s little doubt MGMT could have sold out a far more sizable venue tonight, but in keeping things low key they ensure a more atmospheric, personal show, one that will live long in the memory of those lucky enough to grab the sought after tickets.
This tour serves a dual purpose, of course: small venues offer the perfect chance for the band to air their new material, but MGMT aren’t the types to leave their fans wanting, and as the balloons ping around the front of The Academy, they make sure they drop every major hit along the way, too. Tonight’s set is a roughly even mix of tracks from Oracular Spectacular and new material the forthcoming follow up Congratulations. There’s always been a hint of Brian Wilson to MGMT, like ‘Beach Boys do electro’, yet a few of the newer tracks are more oddball psychedelic than we’ve come to expect. Think jarring keyboard layering, bongos and chorus-free tracks that add an intriguing, experimental new dimension to the live show. Mixing in the likes of -Song for Dan Treacy’ (which gets a especially large cheer for the Irish connection) with well-lauded album tracks like the haunting -Pieces of What’ and an outstanding rendition of -Electric Feel’ certainly makes for an enticing blend. Newcomer -Brian Eno’ – a suitable tribute – encompasses the increasingly psychedelic outlook well, managing to be both brash and charmingly melancholy live.
On the higher-pitch notes, though, MGMT are operating right on the limit of their vocal range. While the pitch changes are a necessary part of their style, reproducing the peak vocal moments are certainly the band’s biggest weakness live. Still, in between clicking their heels together in a quick -Irish dance’ early on and fending off a small barrage of underwear, these guys are nothing if not entertaining, and the audience are absolutely lapping it up, particularly when -Time To Pretend’ causes a bouncing frenzy mid way through the night.
The other -big one’ – closer -Kids’ – is a classic piece of musical theatre, opening with vocalist Ben Goldwasser sitting alone on the stage front as those distinctive intro bleeps ring out. Members of the band flit on and off the stage and swap instruments in a storming end to an otherwise slow encore. MGMT have found a perfect blend tonight. The big tracks are spread throughout, the set list has a -loud, quiet, loud’ quality that keeps the crowd interested, and a handful of tracks are beefed up and blasted out live in a way that gives adds an emphatic oomph to the on-record sound. The set that occasionally seemed just a little bit lacking in depth before the release of Congratulations is – all of a sudden – astoundingly quirky and hit-crammed.
Photos: Damien McGlynn