MGMT @ The Greek

21 07 2010

Last weekend we went to LA’s famous Greek Theatre to see MGMT. Let me start by saying, the venue is amazing. Being my first time the experience was fantastic. There is a picnic area outside where you can hangout prior to the show. If you plan accordingly you and some friends can eat and drink (and be merry) until show time. The only catch: no food or drink inside… so finish it all or, in our case, park close by so you can unload come show time. Once inside, the atmosphere is really cool. It’s one of those spaces that’s not too big but large enough to accommodate the crowds typical of big name acts. What really makes it appealing is that it’s completely open-air. Plus, the entire venue is at the foot of Griffith Park so it’s surrounded by tall trees that create a canopy along the perimeter.

As for the show itself, I must say I was completely underwhelmed. Surprisingly, despite being an ex-NYer this was actually my first time seeing MGMT (who currently reside in Brooklyn). Perhaps it was the timing but they just do not put on a good live show. After much thought I attribute it to 3 factors:

1. 80% of the audience is there to see them play their 3 HUGE singles from their first album, Oracular Spectacular. Which, they seem to want to put behind them entirely. Even with their newer material from their recent release Congratulations, the enthusiasm was lacking. In fact, when it came time to play “Kids”, they simply pressed the play button on an instrumental track and sung the vocals while the rest of the band threw random “souvenir” items (drum sticks, water bottles, towels) into the audience.  This same, barely interested, audience was quick to “beat the traffic” as soon as they heard each of the 3 songs. The attendance dropped by about 25% at the conclusion of “Kids”, which they closed the set with. They actually put on a pretty long encore and seemed to have a lot of fun with it. Which, got me thinking that maybe they use that portion of the show to connect with their more appreciative audience.

2. Their music is the type that mimics the album note by note. Because of that, it lacks that fresh feel that you supposed to get with a live performance. Although I’ve been to many other shows that do the same, this was worse than usual. It took me a while to figure out why but I think I finally determined that it’s mostly because of their instrumentation. Meaning, they have a lot of instruments/voices playing in the same or similar register occupying the same frequency or sonic space. On the album this is combated by some excellent mixing but in the live environment it doesn’t seem to translate as well.

3. This is more personal and connected to factor #1 but I think it’s valid nonetheless. To have that many concertgoers essentially sitting on their hands for everything but their favorite songs or even talking amongst themselves about seemingly everything but the show tends to heavily dilute the experience, not just for the band but for the rest of the audience. Unfortunately, crowd mentality being so effective really has a negative effect in this situation, often killing the entire momentum of the show. I understand that audiences are not always going to be 100% engaged and perhaps that’s as much the fault of the act as the individual but it nevertheless has an impact on the total experience… unfortunately for me.

Now having said that, there were some real high points. I own their new album but have had a tough time connecting to it. Perhaps it’s because it represents a large departure from their first album. I would liken the sound to more vintage electro-pop rock like David Bowie, Brian Eno/Roxy Music or even David Byrne. With this one it’s also a little more acoustic, which they blend nicely with some great surf-rock sensibilities. These two styles are a big change from their debut work but that’s not to say that they are better or worse, just different. What was nice about this show was how I was able to hear this material in a new context and it actually comes off way better than I had given it credit for. In that sense, the show was a complete success.

As a side note, they have a song called “Brian Eno”. It’s probably one of the better tunes form the new album. However as I was hearing it live, i couldn’t help but look around and think that 80% of that audience has no idea who Brian Eno is or how big a contributions he has made to the music community. Putting my snobbery aside, here is actual footage of them playing “Brian Eno” at The Greek. It’s a cool song and this video/sound quality is pretty good considering the source.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy seeing them play their biggies, “Electric Feel” and “Time To Pretend”.  Check out the footage of “Time To Pretend”:

I know many of you must be curious what this lack-luster performance of “Kids” was like… check out HERE.


More info on The Greek Theatre

Official Site of The Greek Theatre

More info on MGMT

More info on Oracular Spectacular

More info on Congratulations

More info on Brian Eno

MGMT | Congratulations… again

13 04 2010

MGMT’s new album Congratulations came out today. It’s not really a big deal given it was leaked a few weeks ago. But, as part of the fanfare they have released a new video for the single “Flash Delirium” and are rolling out an all new website with some pretty cool features. Buy the album or just check out the new site:

Previous GG posts about this “long awaited” album:

*Update: MGMT | Congratulations

Sneak Peek: MGMT | Flash Delirium

*Update: MGMT | Congratulations

23 03 2010

It turns out the new MGMT album, Congratulations, has been leaked in full. This time it was not deliberate. It was probably some insider slip that is now causing total chaos in the Columbia offices. Since it is now out there in the ether, the band wants to be the one’s to bring it you. As they say on their site, they wanted to make it available for download but the suits wouldn’t have it given their lack of understanding of the ever-evolving profit model of the music industry. So as a consolation, MGMT has posted the entire album to stream from their site instead. It’s a fair trade-off. I have only had one listen and so far, so good. They are really playing around with some different clichés on this one. Oddly, there are some surprising moments of Motown. I otherwise stand by my initial conclusion… very Bowie. That said, they do mix in some more traditional psychedelic rock elements from the 60’s psychedelia era as well as some disco-esque tendencies. There is some downtempo stuff too though. It’s kind of all over the place but not too disjointed. Purely based on titles, I wanted to really like “Brian Eno” given I’m an Eno fan, but it’s not as much of a standout as I would have hoped. It’s a decent tune (with some very interesting lyrical and musical references) but not the best on the album. So far, I’m really liking the title track “Congratulations” and “Someone’s Missing”.

Ok. So, this is how it works. Go to the MGMT site: Once there, you will see the tracks listed above the fold. Just click the “play” triangle on the first track and let it rip. It’s really nice that they play continuously so you can leave it running in the background while you do other things. Enjoy!

Sneak Peek: MGMT | Flash Delirium

10 03 2010

MGMT has “leaked” this single a month early from their forthcoming album, Congratulations… to be released in full on April 13th from Columbia. The song is “Flash Delirium” and has been met with mixed reviews thus far. I am not going to weigh in so heavily on this one as I think it may be a bit premature. My first impression is that I think it’s pretty decent. It feels like a hodge podge of different elements without straying too far from the MGMT electro-pop sound. Upon first listen, you want to hear something more like “Time To Pretend” or “Electric Feel”, which it is not. Nevertheless, the more you hear – the better, as you learn how to detach yourself from the old (now 4yrs old) material. I also think that it’s hard to have a true opinion without hearing it in the context of the entire album. I know, most pop bands are not making albums in that manner these days but I always think it is important to consider the work as a whole before commenting one way or another. Based on this little taste, its hard to say I don’t like  it as it sounds A LOT like David Bowie… which I love. Upon the 3rd or 4th listen, some of the Bowie-isms really pop. Actually, I hate to draw too close of a comparison because, let’s face it, Bowie practically invented electro pop/rock. That said, I might just say MGMT’s new stuff is a little throw-back…. in a good way.

AMENDED: Sony BMG (Columbia) has removed every single version of this song from YouTube, including the official video that was uploaded to MGMT’s own channel. I find this to be really stupid considering the amount of coverage it is gaining them. Plus, it completely contradicts the point of the intentionally leaked release. I mean, the MP3 is downloadable form the MGMT webiste!  As a side note: The visual aspect of the official video was very boring anyway… nothing like their other videos.  The album cover is below… not great but it’s a little more stimulating.

This imagery reminds me of Sonic The Hedgehog or something from the 16bit world of 90’s videogamedom.

For reference, here is some of their old stuff. It helps if you are trying to make a comparison, albeit a little unfair to do so…

BTW– I also found this old video of early MGMT doing a Talking Heads cover of “This Must Be The Place” at Wesleyan College 2003.

In a piece in SPIN Magazine, the duo says Congratulations will be a more a more “unified” experience. Check it out as soon as you can and make that call for yourself… you can pre-order here.

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