MGMT Electrifies Pittsburgh

Progressive pop/rock band MGMT‘s nearly sold-out Monday night show at Stage AE was replete with cool lighting effects, somewhat psychedelic videos and spacey and industrial-sounding song intros and exits. Getting the crowd warmed up was Kuroma, a Southern power pop band led by Hank Sullivant. After releasing Kuroma’s debut album Paris, Sullivant was recruited by MGMT and became a guitarist in its touring band in 2007. He returned to Kuroma in 2008. The band had a nice three-guitar sound with drums and keyboards that especially shone through on the song “Case Logic.”

In the post opener break, the crowd–a cool mix of flannel-shirters, club kids, and girls dressed in hippy chic–mingled nicely near the bar and outdoor patio fire pots, When it was apparent that MGMT was coming on stage, everyone flocked back in and filled the floor.  The crowd came alive at the opening riffs of “Flash Delirium.”  The backing video screen–which had been filled with a simple moving Kuroma logo on loop–started playing vibrant, trippy, and colorful videos.

“Time To Pretend” was next and the crowd responded enthusiastically to one of MGMT’s biggest hits. Co-founder, keyboardist, and vocalist Ben Goldwasser, wielded his boards almost like a lethal weapon on the song, with driving, rhythmic musical thrusts. The bass part was thumping Stage AE so hard that it felt as if your heart might skip a beat due to it. (The vocal mix could have been brought up a little).  Co-founder Andrew VanWyngarden, who spent some time as a kid in Pittsburgh when his father was the editor of Pittsburgh Magazine, held up the other end of the song with good vocals and guitar play. Goldwasser and VanWyngarden, who met through their love of music when they were freshmen at Wesleyan University, were given a solid foundation by Will Berman (drums), Matt Asti (bass guitar), and James Richardson (lead guitar, percussion, keyboards). The lead and rhythm guitar section of the band laid down some very nice guitar work and used guitar effects in various spots to further enrich the songs.

The set continued with “Introspection,” “The Youth,” “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters,”Mystery Disease,” “Weekend Wars,” and “Siberian Breaks”– all good songs that kept the MGMT party vibe moving. Each song had unique corresponding video imagery. The backdrop included planets, clouds, birds, dessert scrub brush, tubular hot dog shapes going through colored rings, and different geometric patterns. The lighting was basic, accented with very narrow spot lights shining out from the stage and down from the balcony that sometimes created a field of light patterns in the hazy air in front of the stage.

When MGMT continued into their Pièce de résistance , “Electric Feel,” the crowd recognized the opening notes and erupted into spontaneous joy. Almost everyone in the place was moving and grooving to the song, which alternates between two different time signatures. The melodic keyboard pieces, harmonic vocals with interesting story lyrics, funky bass, smooth lead guitar and driving rhythmic drum beats combine to create the magic in “Electric Feel.” It’s no wonder the song reached no. 14 on U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart in 2008 and reached no. 7 on an Australian singles chart that same year. Sometimes bands expand a great song for concert play. This would be a prime song for MGMT to lengthen for concerts. It would also be a good encore song to send everyone out into the night on a musical high.

Following were “Cool Song No.2,” “Kids” (another big hit of off 2007’s Oracular Spectacular release), “Alien Days, and” “Your Life is a Lie.” MGMT then announced they were playing their last song of the night and they did, “Congratulations” ended the almost 90 minute show. “Congratulations” is a slow and pleasing way to make a finale. The band wasn’t very chatty during the show, but seemed to enjoy providing a progressive kaleidoscope of music and video imagery for the Pittsburgh masses.

 

Rick Handler, executive producer of Entertainment Central, is a long time music lover.