In a word, MGMT’s concert was a trip.
This past Tuesday, MGMT performed at Philly's favorite warehouse–turned–concert venue, the Electric Factory. With its clusters of disco–balls hanging from the ceiling and random multicolored spotlights, it's no surprise that the Electric Factory is known for two things: electronica and all things weird. Couple that with a band penchant for the bizarre and, well, you’ve got yourself one hell of a Tuesday night.
Coming in to the show, I was a little anxious. After the flop of MGMT back in 2013, I'll admit: I had not listened to Little Dark Age, MGMT's latest album, until I binge–listened in panic four hours before the show. MGMT has been beyond outspoken that their most successful (and my favorite) album, Oracular Spectacular, was not at all the direction they wanted to take with their music. So eleven years—including a five year hiatus—later I was a little apprehensive when I heard that the set would be very new music heavy. But I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Electronic avant–pop artists Matthew Dear opened the show, taking the stage solo although at least four keyboards were already set up. What followed could best be described as a hybrid of electronica, out there vocals, and interpretive dancing. The beats were sick, and the venue the perfect ambience, but lets just say the entire crowd was more than ready for MGMT to come out.
MGMT opened up the show with the title song of their latest album, “Little Dark Age.” The band focused mainly on Little Dark Age hits, playing songs like “When You Die,” “She Works Out Too Much,” "TSLAMP," and my new personal favorite, "Me and Michael." But the main hit for fans, myself included, were the old school Oracular Spectacular and Congratulations peppered in throughout the set—including “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel,” “Weekend Wars,” “Kids,” and “Congratulations." Other songs got lost in the mix—like "James," or when the band took a break during the interlude of "Kids" to cover Limahl's "The NeverEnding Story." But overall, there was a consistent flow throughout the set, with little to no breaks in between songs to keep the crowd groovin'.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not, if you've seen them before) the band, who have been notorious for alienating both their fanbase and the albums that made them popular, were completely cool and vibing with the audience. Their entire stage was set up like a safe space for a bad acid trip—there were plants, there were cushions, there was a projector wall with glowing images of moving flowers. Both founding members Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Martin Goldwasser interacted with the crowd with poise, trademark nonchalance, and a clear air of humility.
For a band that relies heavily on synths, studio–production, and voice distortion, MGMT is surprisingly—dare I say—better live than studio. The heavy bass and beats that you can't help but bop back and forth to lend themselves perfectly to a concert setting. So, even though the band played "Brian Eno" with "Hand It Over" instead of "Of Moons and Monsters" for the encore as they have for the entirety of their tour, I'll give them a free pass.