Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

Arty Electro Psychedelic Pop in Yorkshire remarkably goes down fairly well on a cold wet Sunday night in December. MGMT’s second coming to the UK in 2018 is full of fake green plants, pomp and an electric feel.

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Eleven years ago, a debut album of huge potential was released, ‘Oracular Spectacular’ was classy, had an edge with some inspired witty lyrics and electro sounds, it was a grower of an album from a band (two-piece) from Connecticut USA, and spawned 3 brilliant singles, one of which is still in my top 10 favourite songs of all time. ‘Time to Pretend’ has some of the finest lyrics about the live fast die young music industry you will ever hear. It starts with “I’m feelin’ rough I’m feelin’ raw I’m in the prime of my life, let’s make some music make some money find some models for wives”. Ending on the immortal lines “We’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end, we were fated to pretend”. Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser conjured pure magic from their synths and guitars and flirted with high chart placement for the next 18 months, however, it wasn’t to last as the next couple of albums sadly failed to show the same spark as their debut.

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They return to the UK this week for a handful of dates to promote their latest opus ‘Little Dark Age’ but hopefully with Time to Pretend once again. The stage is set with a ton of fake plastic trees and ancient roman columns bookending a huge Technicolor screen behind them that frequently picks out some psychedelic video musings, spiralling colours and kaleidoscopic dream sequences, which quite frankly, match the sounds coming from the stage.

We didn’t expect rock gods but the geeky multi instrument musicians frequently looked a little over studious at play, and without much interaction with the audience, it felt at times a bit antisocial. It was a sell out in Leeds and tightly packed with fans anticipating more than introspection and a plethora of new tunes, they definitely came for the hits. MGMT spaced these out but ‘Time to Pretend’ fell in the first three, and the atmosphere noticeably increased tenfold with the first bubbling opening synth sound of that monumental track.

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The set throughout the evening featured a lot from their most recent release, with only the occasional expedition into the other three albums, such as ‘Flash Delirium’. However, they did reserve an extended foray into the ‘Congratulations’ record for the Progtastic 12 minute ‘Siberian Breaks’. Several passages later and the fans here are in a new musical zone, ‘Little Dark Age’ is then delivered together with video projection behind. The second of those 3 big tunes, the very funky Prince sounding ‘Electric Feel’ brings some shock attempts in the audience to dance – even upstairs at the front of the balcony several shapes were being thrown. Then ‘Me And Michael’, was one of the few new songs with a nice singalong chorus.

Clear winners in the setlist though were those 3 singles ‘Time to Pretend’, ‘Electric Feel’ and just before the encore ‘Kids’ prompted full elation in all corners of this hall. A slightly anticlimactic encore was a further bad call and several punters left early, but on the whole, this was a fair performance – if a little understated. If you were a diehard fan it was probably ecstasy in song, for the casual muso – perhaps a few songs too many and can we have a bit more oomph next time. MGMT are getting back to where they belong, but there is still much work to be done on an interactive live performance.

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★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

SETLIST: The Youth / When You Die / Time to Pretend / James / Flash Delirium / TSLAMP / Weekend Wars / Siberian Breaks / Little Dark Age / Electric Feel / Me and Michael / Kids / ENCORE: When You’re Small / Hand It Over / Alien Days / Of Moons, Birds & Monsters

LISTENING: Stick to ‘Oracular Spectacular’ album released October 2007

WATCHING: Little Dark Age Official Video

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One Response to “MGMT at O2 Academy, Leeds, UK – 16th December 2018”

  1. john bentley Says:

    Great stuff! Looks like Kew Gardens that night!

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