Live review: MGMT @ Red Rocks AmphitheatreBy Michael Behrenhausen | June 14th, 2010 | 3 comments
The weather was bad during openers Janelle Monae and Tame Impala and just got worse as the evening progressed. But that didn’t stop many from going the distance: shaking as much to the group’s infectious psychedelic pop as they were shivering to the heavy downpour and increasingly chilly breeze.
Unfortunately for many, including our party, the rain delayed security at Red Rocks from checking the crowd arriving around 30 minutes after doors in a timely fashion. A hefty backlog delayed increasingly long lines of fans eager to enter. We were forced to miss out on what sounded like solid sets from both the inventive hip-hop of Atlanta-based Monae and the Australian retro psych rockers Tame Impala.
By the time the stage and instruments were mopped as dry as they could be, the band — led by duo Ben Goldwasser on keys, vocals and guitar and Andrew VanWyngarden on guitar and lead vocals — appeared and greeted the “rainy people.” Filled out by backing musicans Matt Asti, James Richardson and Will Berman, they launched into a hesitant take on “Weekend Wars” from their first LP, “Oracular Spectacular.” A sea of huddled, poncho-clad kids filling the amphitheater to the top row roared their approval.
The band quickly got their footing and ran through a mix of numbers from both of their albums. It was immediately apparent that, unlike many of their obvious freak-flag-flying influences (such as Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson or Julian Cope) MGMT are able to flaunt their quirkiness with a translatable ease on stage and enjoy doing so. Songwise, it was an impressive mix of the sounds of ’60s British psychedelia along with a dash of disco and a kernel of Krautrock as the dual vocals of Goldwasser and VanWyngarden floated seamlessly over the top.
“Flash Delirium,” “It’s Working” and “Song for Dan Treacy” — their catchy tribute to the leader of obscure UK lo-fi rockers Television Personalities — were early set highlights from this year’s “Congratulations” LP. “The Youth” had fans slowly swaying along to the rhythm and “Destrokk” moved with a Neu!-via-Stereolab motorik groove. The dance beats and unbeatable hooks of “Electric Feel” got the crowd moving and brought cold hands out of pockets and into the air
Following the acoustic “Pieces of What,” VanWyngarden informed fans that they were “crazy to be here in the rain, just like we may have been crazy to write a 12-minute song,” prefacing “Siberian Breaks.” He mentioned a few other classic longer tunes including, ironically, “Riders on the Storm” as the downpour got even heavier and the wind stronger.
Blame the unrelenting weather or the idea of sitting through a 12-minute song, but soaked and frozen fans now filed out in mass exodus. At least a third of the audience made a break for it — and we along with them. Making our way out along slowly flooding streets the alluring sound of “Time to Pretend” beckoned in the background.
Reports are, those true riders on the storm that managed to last the evening were treated to a full set and surely an experience they would never forget. In fine spirit, MGMT rode it out with them, offering up, among other tunes, “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters,” “Brian Eno” and an encore of the hit “Kids.” Aptly, they ended the evening with “Congratulations.” And those that remained surely deserved that.
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Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor. He’s pretty sure he didn’t get pneumonia.