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MGMT’s Vegas debut shows how far the NYC band has come

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VanWyngarden (right) and MGMT entertained during their first Vegas stopover.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna

Three and a half stars

MGMT August 26, Cosmopolitan's Boulevard Pool

At long last, psych-pop duo MGMT routed one of its tours through Las Vegas on August 26, and in hindsight it was a smart wait.

Locals might have been too evergreen during the introductory trekking for the band’s 2007 breakout debut, Oracular Spectacular, and surely a Vegas crowd would have turned on MGMT during the reactionary Congratulations follow-up and its somewhat agitative live campaign, during which the twosome would usually refuse to perform its most popular song, “Kids” (from Oracular). But that anthemic electro chestnut, and all of MGMT’s most beloved songs, made their way onto the band’s Boulevard Pool setlist, much to the delight of a robust Cosmo crowd comprised of a wide cross-section of rock and indie enthusiasts.

Which could have been the ideal test audience for MGMT’s newest material, the most interesting aspect of the nearly two-hour show (which was double the length of the band’s FYF Fest performance in LA the night before). And if the positive response to unreleased tracks like the tuneful, blossoming “Introspection” and the blasting, Cure-meets-Revolver-era-Beatles rocker “Mystery Disease” is any indication, the act’s new album (out September 17) ought to reverse the indifference that met Congratulations.

Even the cuts played from that largely (and unfairly) dismissed second record sounded more resplendent than on record, including an epic run-through of the 12-minute “Siberian Breaks,” and the jaunty, upbeat “It’s Working,” a title that summed up everything MGMT executed onstage, with onlookers either whooping it up or watching attentively, even during the quieter, folkier numbers (“I Found a Whistle”).

Furthermore, the band itself—expanded to a lively sextet for the stage—projected with clarity, never succumbed to excess during its extended instrumentals and even refreshed older songs (“The Handshake”). It has clearly honed its stagecraft during this spring/summer tour, to say nothing of the live act it has evolved into since its breakthrough. “Tonight we are entertainers!” declared singer Andrew VanWyngarden after acknowledging the band’s first-ever Vegas gig, but there was some truth to that throwaway comment. I caught MGMT elsewhere in 2008 and 2010, and each performance suffered from various shortcomings and indulgences, as well as a general ambivalence. On Monday night, Las Vegas finally got MGMT, and got it at its best.

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