MGMT – review

ABC, Glasgow
The expanded stage version of MGMT were more interested in cosmic jamming than popularity in a set of head-wrecking polyphony

MGMT are the core duo of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, but when they perform live, everything gets bigger. The band expand to a six-piece, their drummer placed stage-left to allow the audience a better view of a giant screen showing throwback psychedelic visuals. Stage right is dominated by a comically oversize cowbell that would look more at home hanging round the neck of Godzilla.

There is gigantism in MGMT's music, too, or at least a sense of packing as many guitar squiggles and black-box blurts as possible into every song. Their knack for keyboard hooks is what made them unavoidable in 2008, but VanWyngarden and Goldwasser are more interested in cosmic jamming than universal appeal. Their recent third album is their most wigged-out yet. They wisely include strident debut single Time to Pretend in the early running, redlining the enthusiasm of the crowd and helping sustain it through a set that is long on polyphonic scree and short on banter. It is deliberately transportive, head-wrecking stuff, although they also play a beautiful cover of Introspection by obscure late-1960s head Faine Jade that features Goldwasser on tin whistle.

The monstrous cowbell is eventually deployed on new song Your Life Is a Lie, with two fans invited to wield a drumstick the size of a shillelagh, punctuating each 4/4 bar with an almighty clonk. It's an entertaining prelude to Kids, still MGMT's signature hit. They attempt to scuff it up by inserting a noodle-friendly breakdown in the middle, but the crowd keep singing the earworm hook throughout. A brief encore ends with Plenty of Girls in the Sea, a deceptively simple slice of break-up whimsy that mentions clowns, lifeguards and lemons, and emphasises how off-piste MGMT are determined to go. Judging by the exuberant reaction, there are still plenty of fans happy to get caught up in their wake.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #Iwasthere


Graeme Virtue

The GuardianTramp

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