Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner
It wasn’t Halloween night, but in New York a minimum of three days before and after October 31st is all that’s necessary for costume-induced revelry. And enough fans dressed ambiguously enough that the line between costume and outfit was thin. When MGMT, the duo consisting of keyboardist Ben Goldwasser and guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden, and their supporting band took the stage in matching Three Amigos attire, the crowd roared in delight.
And that was the general trend all night. The crowd clamored in delight every time Goldwasser approached his mic (he didn’t get more animated than that), lead guitarist James Richardson ripped into another fret-shredding solo, and whenever the group’s meandering jams coalesced into danceable beats.
The group seemed at ease on stage despite the surrounding underage regalement and general hysteria. They cruised through the majority of Oracular Spectacular, including their certifiable hits “Electric Feel” and “Time to Pretend”. But they lingered on “The Handshake” and a couple of other tracks, jamming extensively under Richardson’s commanding solos.
Singing has never been VanWyngarden’s strong suit -- the album clearly works some auto-tune magic -- but it was rough-hewn enough that it suited their ‘60s inspired indie sound well. “Weekend Wars”, however, simply sounds constipated and it did so equally live.
Winding down their set with “Kids”, they set down their instruments singing along to Goldwasser’s mostly solo electronic engineering. But they weren’t quite done and VanWyngarden pressed Richardson to follow his lead with playing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” What followed was a train-wreck of a cover, with VanWyngarden screeching out the vocals in an even loftier falsetto than usual and the bass player struggling to follow Richardson’s chords.
Though MGMT’s innovative psychedelic indie pop sound and songs of fated delusions made for a solid debut album, their only live embellishment was an exhilarating third-party guitarist. (And also their costumes.)