Tuesday, 28 September 2010

MGMT, Manchester Apollo, 26.09.10

MGMT's fanbase can be split into two distinct groups- those that enjoy the semi-psychedelic extended endings to their proggy songs and those that endure them so that they can hear 'Electric Feel', 'Time To Pretend' or 'Kids'. The trouble for MGMT lies in the fact that those willing to fork out the £20 to see them play live seem to fall into the latter group, while the psych-pop lovers stay at home, either spending their money on recreational drugs or listening to bands who have done what MGMT are trying to do but better (The Teardrop Explodes, Pink Floyd, Television Personalities). Ditching the sound of their three most successful singles to go down a more experimental road, it has turned out to be a one-way-street, with the band happier player more ambitious left-field songs but the crowd apathetic to each new song, providing only unconvincing applause in the hope they'll hear a familiar synth riff sometime soon. At times the passivity of the crowd is understandable as the shifting musical styles and half-baked melodies lack a direction and point. But MGMT are capable of some interesting moments, most of them contained in the drifting and atmospheric 12-minutes of 'Siberian Breaks'. Yet it all seems to wash over the audience and this doesn't pass the duo by, as keyboardist Ben Goldwasser deadpans to the crowd "Siberian Breaks is over, you can come back now".

During 'The Handshake' the indifference in the crowd turns to frustration as a beer is launched midway from the audience, connecting with the drummer. He hurls his drumsticks back into the crowd in retaliation and gives us the finger, leaving the stage. (It later appears in the news that it was apparently a glass filled with piss- maybe the first time MGMT have had such a clear piece of feedback from a 'fan' regarding their altered sound*). The band then run through 'Kids' and an acoustic 'Congratulations'. 'Kids' is performed as usual to a backing track and the duo dance around the stage to the adoration of the crowd- but the half-hearted hand gestures and constant glances between the two suggests an in-joke that the majority of the audience aren't in on. Could it be an in-joke borne out of the frustration of playing oddball psychedelic-pop-rock for an hour and a half to minimal response only to then press play on a recording and get the biggest reaction of the night for a single keyboard riff? During the encore one desperate fan shouted behind me, 'Don't fuck about lads, play Electric Feel!'. The sad thing being they'd already played it.

*Even later it appears that it wasn't piss after all and was in fact beer. 

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