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Summer’s here, and the time is right for dancing — or at least bouncing up and down a lot — at the Greek. That’s the way it was for the latter part of a headlining appearance Friday in Los Angeles by MGMT.
A full house turned out at the open-air venue for the Brooklyn-based band, still on the rise with its second album, “Congratulations” (Columbia). While the newest release takes the group in power-pop directions, also offering psychedelic blender concoctions, the audience reacted well to several of the tunes, though reserved mass approval for older songs.
Early on, things were a bit sluggish, and attempts at jamming just didn’t work well because MGMT isn’t a jam band at all; the group’s at its best being tight and snappy. The mind-game images on video screens, ranging from ’60s acid-induced visuals to ’80s non-sequiter were really window dressing at most.
Singer Andrew VanWyngarden strummed acoustic guitars quite a bit during the 90-minute set, and though not exactly a riveting frontman, he has a warm-and-fuzzy nice-guy appeal. Musical collaborator Ben Goldwasser stuck to his small keyboard up front most of the time, and the rest of the band didn’t show a load of personality, outside of guitarist James Richardson. Still, the group’s earnest approach to material that could turn pretentious with a misstep or two won the evening.
At times, MGMT weaves a patchwork pop quilt not unlike Scotland’s Belle and Sebastian, though the latter has far more range and tune quality and the former is more synth and keyboard dependent. There were songs to sway by, including “The Youth” and the almost-glam rockish “Flash Delirium,” ’60s and ’70s sonic touchstones in evidence.
The crowd truly came to life for the sci-fi funky strut of “Electric Feel” from the group’s 2007 debut, “Oracular Spectacular.” A genuine magic moment arrived during the slightly delicate yet also epic “Siberian Breaks” evoking symphonic pop Brian Wilson would approve of, an ambitious and mesmerizing dreamscape.
Although the quirky and partially brisk “Brian Eno,” one of the stronger tracks off the new album, was a fine tribute to the British musician-producer, a cover before or after tackling one of Eno’s late ’70s forays into sublime electro-pop, such as “I’ll Come Running” or “St. Elmo’s Fire,” would have punched things up to a greater degree.
A double-shot of the carnival loopy “Time to Pretend,” and the band’s roller/ice rink boop-boop keyboard-driven slice of hit happiness, “Kids,” brought the main set to a close.
An encore almost brought “Future Reflections” until VanWyngarden changed his mind, stopping after a couple of bars and a quick band conference led to the light and breezy bounce found in “Of Moons, Birds, & Monsters,” followed by a soothing “Congratulations” as a daydream closer to take everyone home.
All in all, nice stuff. Not great, despite what fans might think, but that’s OK. There were several great moments, however, proving MGMT still is rife with more possibilities. We’ll see where these boys head next.
Venue: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles (Friday, July 16)
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