The brightly colored, amorphous shapes that flowed across the screen with the formlessness of a volcano’s discharge — if volcanoes burped rainbows instead of lava — were more than just eye candy: They were the visual embodiment of the songs thundering through the PA.
Such a striking backdrop didn’t distract from the off-center psychedelia of MGMT on Monday at the Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Instead, it seemed at one with what the giddy crowd was hearing.
Like said images, MGMT’s catalog is fluid, with the ungoverned electronic experimentation of Krautrock, the rubbery bass lines of disco, the propulsive digital beats of modern dance music, the incandescent, sing-along harmonies of ’60s garage rock and the deeper recesses of Pink Floyd’s catalog all figuring into the band’s whimsical, uninhibited and occasionally nightmarish-sounding tunes.
MGMT was performing in Vegas for the first time.
“Tonight, we are entertainers,” announced singer-guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden early in the band’s set, acknowledging his surroundings playfully. “Tonight, we are show businessmen.”
Vegas is a city of willful self-indulgence, an impulse that these dudes cater to without any prodding.
On Monday, they lost themselves even further still in the hypnotic melodies and swelling crescendo of “Weekend War,” the ocean-deep groove of “Electric Feel” and of the inviting drone of new song “Mystery Disease,” a dense thicket of sound that seemed to exert its own downward gravitational pull.
But for as much as they explored the dark corners and crevices of a number of their songs, they also homed in on the pop sensibilities at the core of their catalog during more succinct jams such as two-minute poison pill “Your Life Is a Lie,” another new song, and hit singles “Time to Pretend” and “Kids,” which were met with arms-in-the-air approval from the audience.
It all came together, and then drifted apart, in what could be likened to the rock ’n’ roll equivalent of a teenager’s messy bedroom: It may appear disheveled and chaotic to outsiders, but to its inhabitant, everything has its place.
Not everyone will be able to see as much, but this is precisely the point.
“You can’t get a grip if there’s nothing to hold,” VanWyngarden sang knowingly during “Flash Delirium,” leaving the crowd before him eagerly grasping at air.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.