MGMT at First Avenue, 11/18/13
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Monday, November 19, 2013
Is it a good or a bad sign when a show has to move from a larger venue to a smaller one? For one, Andrew VanWyngarden, the lead singer of MGMT didn't care.
He told the audience, "It sure is cool to play here at First Avenue," bringing cheers from the young group of kids there to see the band's style of ambient indie rock. So, for those who could drink, they did, and the ones who snuck in something else, they used it. For the sober ones, the evening could have used a little pick-me-up at times.
For a band that made a name around dance music, MGMT lack the moves onstage. But what they lacked, they made up for in screen projections behind them. The band was comprised of VanWyngarden, his collaborator, Ben Goldwasser, and opening band Kuroma that turned into the backing band for MGMT -- what a financially efficient way to tour. The group opened with "Weekend Wars" off of their breakout album Oracular Spectacular.
Photos by Mark N. Kartarik
Songs off the band's second album, Congratulations, and newest, MGMT, took the group in a different direction. A band that wrote catchy, synth tunes took on psychedelic '70s rock, losing some fans while gaining others. A few of those pieces such as "I Found a Whistle," "Introspection," and "Flash Delirium" fell into the zone of "weird for the sake of being weird," although "Of Moons, Birds and Monsters" off Oracular already showed signs of change in the band's sound. Anyone that paid attention to the screen projection behind the group was treated to intense scenes from flying birds to aliens to nonsensical pictures.
Though not considered to be a shoegaze band, MGMT fits the role perfectly at times, especially when Andrew brings out his falsetto. One of the group's bigger hits, "Electric Feel," was immediately recognized in the beginning riffs, making the audience cheer to the pulsing synth-driven kaleidoscopic piece.
What everyone was actually waiting for was the massively fun "Kids." As soon as Goldwasser hit the first notes, all of the kids were off their feet. Phones were pulled out as VanWyngarden took his hand-held camera and pointed it at the audience. So meta. With their extended bridge, the band got to jam on three different keyboards, stretching the piece to over eight minutes and extending the party a little bit longer. Hopefully this is not a parallel to the band's career -- living off the one hit. As the group gathered after the bridge to finish out the song, MGMT was in their element, and reminded everyone that they still knew how to throw a party.
They followed up with a new piece "Alien Days" and came back for a two song encore of "Your Life is a Lie" and "Pieces of What?" a song that questions the significance of life, but with "Kids" out of the way, the rest of the evening fell a little flat.
Photos by Mark N. Kartarik
Critic's bias: Admittedly, I stopped listening to MGMT after Oracular Spectacular, so for those that know the catalog better than me, it was most likely a more fun night. I did see them years ago when they opened for Beck at the Roy Wilkins and was a little underwhelmed by their performance then, also.
The crowd: More younger dudes than girls that nodded politely along to the songs.
Overheard in the crowd: "I hate when people call them 'Management.'" Me, too.
Random notebook dump: Due to the curfew, "The Handshake" was left off the setlist, and much thanks to the soundguy who got me the setlist.
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