MGMT @ FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 9/6/13 There were two distinct, dramatically different moods to MGMT's set at the Fillmore, and let's just say that those who came to hear MGMT's breakthrough hits -- bright and peppy synthpop tunes like "Electric Feel," "Kids" and "Time to Pretend" -- were not disappointed, and neither were those who appreciate the more experimental side of the band. Those older songs were interspersed amid newer material -- long stretches of fuzz-infused guitar jams and musical experiments -- forming a psychedelic soundtrack that came along with hallucinatory animations beamed on a screen at the back of the stage.
Taking the stage shortly after 10 p.m., MGMT drew enthusiastic cheers from the packed house when it rolled out the hits, but the crowd seemed considerably more sedate as the set delved into the more tranquil material. The floor was packed, with people standing elbow-to-elbow all the way to the back of the house, but there was little movement during the long stretches of guitar solos and synth experiments.
Tunes like "Of Moons" and "The Youth" recalled the ambling guitar experiments of early Pink Floyd, and the constant barrage of colorful animations on the screen of the back of the stage added to the surreal feel of such moments. Songs like "I Found a Whistle," "It's Working" and The Youth" featured an impressive array of sounds, musical textures that included softly strummed acoustic chords, piercing synth tones and driving psychedelic electric guitar solos. Drummer Will Berman, bassist Matt Asti and multi-instrumentalist James Richardson rounded out the admirable musical range of the duo's experiments.
During "Flash Delirium," singer/songwriter Jennifer Herrema emerged to share duty on lead vocals. "Your Life is a Lie" veered far from the formula that made tunes like "Kids" and "Electric Feel" such commercial successes. With accompaniment from giant cowbell, the song features two minutes of choppy guitar work and ambling lyrics. Before the encore, the band played the "Alien Days," a similarly rambling psychedelic anthem with minor chords and a trudging drum line.
The vibe of the crowd changed dramatically toward the end of the main set when the band busted out the hits, "Electric Feel," "Kids" and "Time to Pretend." The mood suddenly shifted from a shared subdued hallucination into an energetic dance party. The feel of the whole venue shifted -- fans danced on the floor, in the aisle and on the upper levels as the group delivered well-honed versions of their best-known tunes.
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The psychedelic graphics still beamed on the screen, but the feel of the show transformed quickly. Even an extended synth solo on "Kids" couldn't drag down the poppy, easily digestible feel of the song. The mood shifted again for the encore. That sudden change in mood and feel summed up the most interesting dynamic of the show. MGMT has always been fond of psychedelic experimentation, but the band's knack for penning radio-friendly synth-pop has obscured that part of the group's sound. This group knows how to veer from one approach to another with ease, and as a result, it has garnered a diverse audience base.
Kuroma and the experimental trio Black Bananas opened up the show shortly after the doors opened at around 8:15. Kuroma alternated between spirited, speedy indie pop and slow, emotive ballads, while Black Bananas reveled in sheer noise. Jennifer Herrema belted out obscured vocals with loud accompaniment from an electric guitarist and a synth player.
Personal Bias: Some of MGMT's most experimental stretches recalled cherished teenage memories for me of trying to get into early Pink Floyd albums. Random Note: The giant cowbell on "Your Life is a Lie" didn't seem to offer any added volume or presence. The exaggerated size was just for show. By the Way: I must have heard at least two dozen fans talking about Molly throughout the course of the evening.
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