"Hope you liked some of our new stuff," said MGMT's singer/guitarist, Andrew VanWyngarden, at the end of this show. There was a pause – then he asked shyly: "DO you like it? It means a lot to us."
VanWyngarden wasn't trying to generate the applause that automatically follows when a rock star deigns to ask the audience's opinion of new material – he actually wanted reassurance. His Brooklyn-based electro duo, one of 2008's big left-field successes, are preparing to test the loyalty of the million people who bought their Grammy-winning debut, Oracular Spectacular, by bringing out a follow-up, Congratulations, that contains "no hits, no singles", and promises to be closer in feel to the band's live show.
On stage, VanWyngarden and keyboardist Ben Goldwasser forget they're a pop band and start experimenting with key changes and effects in a way that exposes them as stoner musos. The reasoning seems to be that if a track sounds good on record, it will sound even better stretched to 10 minutes, and garlanded with psychedelic guitar figures. But this sole British show – a tour follows in September – suggested the new album won't be as hard to digest as MGMT claim.
The songs were complex and hard to pigeonhole, with tempo changes and genre-switching tomfoolery as standard, but they weren't prog-rock ambles. Wasserman produced Mellotron and harpsichord effects that conjured up Donovan and the Incredible String Band; Flash Delirium sustained interest by threading a synthesised flute through asymmetrical tempo shifts; It's Working made harpsichord and bongos feel like a natural combination.
There's also been a rethink about presentation: out with the lengthy jams, in with a rigorous trimming of excess. They squeezed 12 songs into an hour without feeling rushed. On stage, MGMT have become the art rockers to beat.