PARIS (Reuters) - Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser from American psychedelic-electro rock act MGMT were back in Paris Tuesday to give fans a taste of their upcoming second album “Congratulations,” out on April 12.
The Brooklyn-based pair and their band kicked off a one-hour long set at the sold-out Trabendo venue with “Flash Delirium,” a new song which set the mood of an album full of haunted and dreamy psychedelic sounds.
“Nice to be in Paris. This is a nice, very intimate setting,” a smiling VanWyngarden told the 700-capacity crowd.
The gig was part of a string of low-key European shows MGMT has embarked on this month to showcase the keenly anticipated follow-up to their 2008 debut album “Oracular Spectacular” that has been praised for its stylistic breadth and anthemic tunes which poked fun at fame and rock excess.
So far fans had only heard “Flash Delirium,” a new track with its telling lyric “We will never be as big as the Rolling Stones,” the band gave away as a free download this month.
Despite a setlist dominated by new material, MGMT quickly established a connection with the audience, which cheered new songs such as “It’s working” or “I Found a Whistle” but went into a frenzy for old favorites such as “Electric Feel.”
In interviews the band has said that “Congratulations” was a reaction to the success of the first album, which sold over one million copies, and that they tried not to recreate the hits of their debut.
Complacency was not on the band’s agenda as MGMT did not play their biggest hit “Kids,” the song French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party used for a campaign without the band’s permission last year and was fined for doing so.
MGMT claims the new album is closer to what they were trying to do before hype turned the Wesleyan University graduates into stars, which was to simply celebrate the music they love.
The nine-track album revisits 50 years of pop music history with Beach Boys-like choruses, hints of a Syd Barrett-inspired early Pink Floyd and homages to music producer Brian Eno, pop singer Lady Gaga in the “Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” or The Televisions Personalities songwriter in “Song Dan Treacy.”
Through it all runs the common thread of a new passion for surfing developed while recording parts of the album in Malibu.
VanWyngarden recently told the NME he could now be seen “catching the waves” at 7 a.m. at Rockaway Beach near New York.
The cartoon-like cover of “Congratulations” is a giant cat riding a wave which is enveloping another cat that is surfing.
The audience, which included young fans but also musicians such as French electro duo Justice, fell under the spell of an intense elf-like VanWyngarden on guitar, backed by Goldwasser on keyboards looking very much like a young Elvis Costello.
Of course the warmest reception from the crowd went to “Time to Pretend” from the first album that mocks the cliched sex and drugs rock star lifestyle.
One of the show’s highlight was a frenzied rendition of the “Brian Eno” song which sent the crowd into a wild pogo.
The gig ended with the new album title track “Congratulations,” a sarcastically self-congratulatory ballad.
“They are my favorite band. The audience was a bit confused at the start but they really warmed up with the ‘Brian Eno” song. I had never seen anyone pogoing at an MGMT gig before. That was a great show,” said Etienne, 20.
It was the band’s first French concert since playing last August at the Rock-enSeine festival in Paris.
MGMT won the Best New Band and Best Track prizes at the Shockwaves NME Awards in 2009. It was nominated for the 2010 Grammy Award for best New Artist.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, editing by Paul Casciato