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In concert: MGMT at Merriweather Post Pavilion

mgmt...and don't the kids just love it. MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday night. (All photos by Xiaomei Chen/TWP)

By David Malitz

Is it possible that of all the buzz band breakthroughs of the past few years, it's MGMT that is best situated for long-term success? In some bizarre bit of reverse psychology, the Brooklyn-based quintet headed by Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser followed its hit-packed debut, "Oracle Spectacular," with "Congratulations," a puzzling, largely hook-free follow-up that seems to have somehow only cemented its superstar status. Merriweather Post Pavilion was packed Saturday night with an overwhelmingly young and excited crowd that simply didn't seem to care that a memorable chorus came along only once every few songs.

Make no mistake -- the biggest cheers, singalongs and glow-stick-bracelet-waving moments came during "Time to Pretend" and "Kids," MGMT's deliriously catchy first two singles that rocketed the band to fame. Both are astoundingly simple and sensational songs built upon the most rudimentary, one-note keyboard lines. To deny their appeal is impossible. Unless, of course, you are a member of MGMT. "Kids" was conspicuously absent from their Coachella set list earlier this year and Saturday's version was straight karaoke, each band member putting down his instrument, relying solely on canned music and contributing mildly interested vocals. "Time to Pretend" was given greater care and was received with enthusiasm; high-fives abounded in the audience when the first notes were played.

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The group was much more committed to the songs from "Congratulations," even if there was rarely much worthy of commitment. The new tunes couldn't be more different than those early synth-rock anthems about being young, all of which followed a straight line to the juicy hooks. There were fleeting pop highs during "Brian Eno" and "Flash Delirium," but there were enough zigs and zags to lessen their impact. The shape-shifting ways of '60s psych-rock cult favorite Love kept cropping up as MGMT eschewed verse-chorus-verse structures in favor of drifting songs that focused more on melancholy than melody.

So mostly the band worked in a meandering middle ground in a battle against itself to not be pigeonholed as "the 'Time to Pretend' and 'Kids' band." Some instrumental explorations picked up steam but stopped short of psychedelic bliss. Things never got too experimental or too self-indulgent. VanWyngarden's voice fits nicely atop gigantic synth riffs but is too meek to serve as a driving force on the strummier new fare. No matter, the youngsters loved every moment. MGMT may be struggling to find its identity, but its fan base is plenty locked in.

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By David Malitz  |  August 16, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: MGMT  
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Comments

This is a fundamentally fair review. A surprisingly small portion of the audience was befuddled by the "Congratulations" songs, though early departures were evident before the encore. Those who remained enjoyed themselves. We probably won't hear "Siberian Breaks" on subsequent tours, until and unless MGMT goes another 4-5 years when, with that much seasoning and a more dominant stage presence, they could be Pink Floyd-like in their ability to sonically deliver on the song's promise. Admittedly, I skew way past the typical MGMT demographic at age 60. But, I completely enjoyed myself and the opportunity to hear this talented young band, live.

Posted by: coalguy | August 16, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

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