Concert review: MGMT light ups with 3 rock styles

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It's hard to think of a modern band that has produced three singles as irresistibly catchy as "Time to Pretend," "Kids" and "Electric Feel" and then gone as weird as side two of the latest album.

MGMT has indeed frustrated fans who were thrilled to find an indie band with a feel for a hook.

But, as frontman Andrew VanWyngarden said in an interview last week, the people who have stuck with MGMT "want a band that tries to create worlds for the listeners."

That's exactly what MGMT did Monday night at Stage AE taking the stage with the psychedelic explosion of "Flash Delirium," Mr. VanWyngarden twisting the '60s mantra with "turn it on, tune it in." The six-piece band was backed by an eye-popping light show and a big screen flashing Crayola colored bursts that would have made Timothy Leary smile.

The second song, "Time to Pretend," was met with a high-pitched shriek, and far from being bored with its 2008 hit -- we can say "hit," even though the popular "Oracular Spectacular" songs were not actually Top 40 hits -- MGMT went at the tongue-in-cheek song about being rock stars with plenty of drive, thanks to energetic drummer Will Berman.

"Introspection," an obscure and poppy Faine Jade cover, put us deep in the psych-folk '60s realm, except for the singer's cool high-tech trick of doubling as cameraman with a hand-held device that projected onto the screen, with psychedelic effects.

Fans of that first breakout album -- who listened to more than the singles -- were treated to the stone soul revival of "The Youth," "Of Moons, Birds & Monsters" and "Weekend Wars" in the middle of the set, mixed with the dreamy, snowy ambiance of "Siberian Breaks."

Its electronic ending segued brilliantly into "Electric Feel," which quickly turned Stage AE into an "American Bandstand" scene of twirling bodies. Once again, it was an excited, electrifying version of the kind of song MGMT has at least temporarily abandoned. Same goes for the joyful "Kids," which veered into a pounding club mix.

Having heard all three singles, there was a stream of people heading for the exit three songs before the finish. One thing they missed was Jackson and Jarod, from Pittsburgh's own Grand Buffet (a former MGMT tourmate), jumping on stage to swing at an oversized cowbell like kids going at a pinata.

Someone commented that this show was "four years too late," and, yes, it would have been nice to have seen MGMT and Pittsburgh-raised Mr. VanWyngarden in the "Oracular" heyday. On the other hand, the band's psych-rock/space-rock/indie-pop worlds blended nicely in their own weird way. Let's hope, though, for the sake of the pop fans, they can deliver one more of those tasty gems the next time they come around.


Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.

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