Updated: Saturday, 20th October 2018 @ 4:55pm

Gig review: MGMT @ O2 Apollo, Manchester

Gig review: MGMT @ O2 Apollo, Manchester

By Michael Halpin

Upon the release of MGMT’s 2008 debut Oracular Spectacular, former Wesleyan University students Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden became the darlings of the music press. 

The love affair however was a short lived one and following the release of their second album, Congratulations, many critics felt that MGMT had become creators of incoherent and disjointed music that lacked the instant accessibility of their debut material. 

As a result, the bands reputation dropped considerably. 

Time to queue up self-titled third album MGMT and its subsequent tour in order to redress the balance then.

Stage presence has never been MGMT's forte so the big screens and animations were a welcome addition to the evening’s proceedings at the Apollo. 

Granted, much of the screen work looked like a slightly low budget Zoo TV, but when the Flying Saucer...Yes!...Flying Saucer! was brought into the fray, I, for one, turned into an easily impressed eight-year-old. 

The fact that I could see a roadie operating the Flying Saucer from the side of the stage as it hovered over the audience mattered not a jot and I have now made a mental note to see if my remote control car is still in the loft at my parent’s house…

Opening their set with Alien Days (hence the Flying Saucer) MGMT did not necessarily
look ready for action on-stage; it was more a case of them looking comfortable in their own skin.  Something that has maybe not always been the case for the neo-psychedelic group.

Following Alien Days, the opening bars from Time To Pretend rang around the Apollo and gave way to a mass of appreciation. From a personal point of view, I was hoping Time To Pretend would arrive later in the set but this shows two major points about MGMT. 

Firstly, the confidence they have in order to play a song like Time To Pretend so early in their set and secondly, do not expect the norm from them in any way whatsoever. 

Following this, a surprising cover of the obscure Introspection by little known 60s’ guitarist Faine Jade was thrown into the set and upon listening to the original, you can do nothing but agree that the song was practically made for MGMT to perform.

After the first half-a-dozen songs, it became apparent that much of the criticism that has been leveled at MGMT since the release of Congratulations is highly unjustified. Granted the songs on Congratulations and MGMT are not as instantly accessible as those on Oracular Spectacular but surely MGMT are to be applauded for creating challenging material that, once the surface is scratched, reveals a set of very well crafted songs.

Maybe the recent criticisms have come from the fact that the Spotify generation no longer has the need to be patient with music or no longer has the desire to allow a song to grow on them.

Mystery Disease, Siberian Breaks and I Found A Whistle all sounded better played live than they do on record and unexpectedly, a strange euphoria was uncovered within the audience experiencing MGMT on Monday night.

Just as I began to think to that the band could do with throwing another hit into the set  they swaggered through Electric Feel and into their latest single Your Life Is A Lie which involved audience member ‘Jamie’ being given an oversized Drumstick with which he was required to hit an oversized Cow Bell.

In his own way 'Jamie' played his part in brining smiles to many of the audiences faces and the joy was upheld as Your Life Is A Lie was followed by 21st century indie disco anthem Kids

Singer Andrew Van Wyngarden drew out one or two screams as he shook hands of a few audience members before penultimate number Congratulations somehow managed to throw an overwhelming feeling of good will over its audience.

The encore was just the one song but Plenty Of Girls In The Sea, with some wonderful Beach Boys style vocals, ended the evening with the audience still on a high.

Proof, if any was needed, that MGMT, despite their critics, are still moving in the right direction.  

Picture courtesy of Gordon Lew, with thanks.

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