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MGMT's Indianapolis debut

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Despite the torrential rain, tornado warnings, and a newfound lake in the Vogue parking lot, few tickets to last night’s sold out MGMT concert were wasted. When the band took stage promptly at 9 p.m. the venue’s floor was already crowded and nearly impenetrable. The audience literally stretched from front to back of The Vogue.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, MGMT’s show could only be as good as their latest release Congratulations, which has been received less than favorably by fans and critics alike. The new album is a less triumphant experience than the band’s late 2007 debut Oracular Spectacular, and leaves the listener in anticipation of an outburst of poppy celebration that never comes.

Photos by Jack Shepler.
  • Photos by Jack Shepler.

Seemingly aware of this, MGMT alternated their two-hour show with songs from both albums throughout the evening. Late arrivals likely missed tunes they were looking forward to hearing; MGMT-favorite and claim to fame “Electric Feel” came just four songs into the set, complete with a false teaser start (thank you, technical difficulties) that simultaneously embarrassed and excited fans.

“This is our first 21+ show on the tour,” said co-frontman and lead guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden. “There’s not too many screaming girls in the front row.” The sea of people laughed. “And we can all drink alcohol together.” And then they cheered.

This would be the first of three times VanWyngarden referenced the age restriction placed on their Indianapolis spectators. Furthermore, the crowd received a continual harsh assessment for being “the quietest audience” the band has played for. “That’s great though,” VanWyngarden tacked onto the critical statement before moving into “Siberian Breaks”, a softer tune from the new album that took advantage of the attentive audience.

The remaining high points in the show always resulted from a transition back to songs from Oracular Spectacular, including “The Youth” and “Pieces of What”. Simply put and comparatively speaking, Congratulations is dull on record and that same lack of energy translates into in a live environment… despite everyone’s most optimistic hopes.

Relocating to the balcony to observe the two-song encore, it was pleasing to see “Kids” erupt a dance party across the club and to finally see the visual toys that were carried into The Vogue put to good use; a pair of glowing ball caps bobbed near the front row and glow sticks tethered to strings rotated above the audience.

I am often judgmental of a crowd’s failure to engage with their entertainer, but this time I genuinely believe the fault of the relatively lackluster concert lies on the shoulders of a band that has fallen victim to the sophomore slump. Branching into new musical territory is a respectable move but, as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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