Review by Chloe Gynne with Photography by Gili Dailes

A summer night at Somerset House listening to good music seems like a dream, right? Sure- until much of the crowd, who too had the same idea but less of the interest in the music itself, decide to spend the night talking.

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MGMT are victim to this curse tonight, as Warpaint and Birdy were at last year’s Summer Series concerts in this venue. The band amble onstage, armed with greenery and guitars, and get to work, introducing fans to cuts from new album ‘Little Dark Age’. The title track is enough to capture interest in some, but others seem more content to discuss their day at work.

They wisely crack out ‘Time To Pretend’ early in the set, trying their best to muster any sense of interest from this crowd. It works, albeit temporarily, as people sway to the song just like they did back in the late noughties. The song, now a decade old, still sounds as delightful as it did back then.

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‘Weekend Wars’ is, too, a joy; harking back to Syd Barrett’s brand of psychedelia, but with a crisp, present clarity. It’s enough to make the crowd go starry eyed for another brief moment. It even pauses the front row dwellers, who, with backs to the stage, are getting their friends to take faux-candid photos of them for their Instagram.

These people- and the deafening noise of tedious chatter-must be apparent to the band, but they don’t show any sign of annoyance. True performers, they power through their chosen setlist, a subdued selection of songs that largely takes from their more recent albums. They do not pander to this crowd who want to hear those three singles from 2008. That’s what makes the quiet beauty of ‘Siberian Breaks’ even more charming tonight; it’s the sign of a band that are at peace with their past and are focussed on serving themselves as much as their audience.

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That said, the energy for big hitters ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ is exhilarating. Fans jump up onto shoulders and strangers sing to each other and it’s a reminder of how well crafted those songs were: a soundtrack to a simpler time.

After the hits, fans trickle out, missing out on the fantastic ‘Me and Michael’ as well as an encore. But the disaffected attitude of this crowd is no surprise: the loudest offenders on the perimeter of the space wear the most expensive suits and talk in an accent only taught at boarding school. Something about the venue- and the slightly steeper ticket price than for a usual indie gig of this size- seems to draw a number of people who, frankly, seem to not understand how gigs work, but certainly have plenty of money to attend them.

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With MGMT playing a mellow, low-energy set, it’s inevitable that any level of noise from the crowd is going to be a problem. But for future reference- talk about your day on the tube there, and if you are going to snapchat your experience, at least face the stage while you’re doing it. The band, however mellow, however psychedelic, however more mature than they were a decade ago, deserve that at the very least.

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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Footnote:

About Somerset House Summer Series

Somerset House has established itself as a much-loved destination for live music in London. For eleven nights in July, the courtyard stage hosts an array of headline artists and hotly tipped acts. Previous years have seen performances from Adele, Basement Jaxx, Bastille, Benjamin Clementine, Blondie, Calvin Harris, Courtney Barnett, Elbow, Ellie Goulding, Florence + The Machine, Goldfrapp, Hot Chip, Justice, Kelis, Laura Mvula, Lianne La Havas, Norah Jones,Paloma Faith, PJ Harvey,Queens of the Stone Age, Robert Plant, Sam Smith, Sigur Ros, Songhoy Blues, The Prodigy, The xx, Tom Odell, Underworld and Warpaint

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