Of late, MGMT have begun to move away from the prankster, shagadelic image we all came to love. They’re keen to become a serious band despite beginning as an art-college joke, and to show that far from acid-fried hippies, they’re hyper-aware, often cynical witnesses of their own success. This means that on an end-of-year European tour and victory parade for the crossover story of the year, Andrew VanWyngarden, Ben Goldwasser and co finally have the air of proper rock stars in control of their live shows, and are miles away from the sprawling, often over-indulgent sets of their last UK tour.
Part of the problem live has been figuring out a way to tame their soaring, transcendental trip-pop using wood and metal instruments on concrete stages inside brick buildings. From the minute they start an extended ‘4th Dimensional Transition’, and the screaming of girls is rebuffed by a forcefield of white noise, it’s clear MGMT are using sheer power to burst open the ceiling to show us the stars. For as ‘Weekend Wars’ shows, a more aggressive attack on the song never overwhelms the melodic genius, quirky twists and Andrew’s spectacular celestial-pervert voice. Tonight, he is king, and when after ‘Of Moons, Birds And Monsters’ he sprays himself, his band and anyone else within range with hairspray, it has the celebratory air of a baptism. Then ‘Time To Pretend’ starts, and you sense that if they locked the doors, handed out weapons and announced themselves messiahs, not one of the air-humping audience would think twice about joining their cult and bringing about a Sexocalypse. ‘Electric Feel’ follows, launching the gig into the realm of religious cultdom.
It’s funny, watching them now, to think that MGMT never expected to be a success. Certainly, these playful outlaws, the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of pop, may end up frozen in time just as they are now, firing out ‘Kids’ in a blaze of glory, draped in tinsel tossed onstage by the audience, never destined to go anywhere else. But as they return to the strains of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s ‘Teenage Lust’, before blasting into the climatic twists and turns of ‘Future Reflections’, it seems likely that we’ll at least get a decent sequel…