Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., June 11, 2010
MGMTStubb's, June 6
Thax Douglas makes an odd master of ceremonies. The recent Chicago transplant is the Beatle Bob of street poetry, introducing bands with scribbled psychedelic ramblings from his notebook journal. Even more so than opener Tame Impala – an Australian classic rock quartet that recalled Spiritualized without the Pink Floyd fixation – Douglas' "Ode to MGMT" was an oddly prescient preamble to the curiosity that followed, something about the color red and a bridge that concluded, "long ago when the rainbow was first bleeding across the sky." Having achieved the level of success and celebrity the Brooklyn outfit openly mocked on its splendid 2008 debut Oracular Spectacular, MGMT similarly followed its muse into more surreal territory with this year's Congratulations, a sophomore head-scratcher with more tangents than hooks and nothing that even remotely resembles a radio single. The band's 75-minute set at Stubb's – and the sold-out audience's attention – was torn between those two extremes, interspersing nuggets like the extended disco-glam of "Electric Feel," the swelling guitar-aurora "Weekend Wars," and certified anthem "Time to Pretend" between long stretches of the new LP, with only "Flash Delirium" and Roxy Music pastiche "Brian Eno" fully adapting to the live setting. There were unexpected highlights, like the Suicide-baiting rarity "Destrokk" and acoustic opener "Pieces of What," which sounded like a lost demo from David Bowie's Space Oddity, but the lasting impression was one of general ambivalence. For encore closer "Kids," MGMT abandoned its instruments in favor of a rousing round of karaoke, self-satisfied and complacent.