MGMT upstaged by shambolic support act.


Ago 20 2008, 11h13

It should have been an easy gig; a small venue, the Waterfront, quickly sold out to on-the-ball fans. Norwich is a benign place for a festival warm-up; everybody there wanted the same thing; to see MGMT play their superb album Oracular Spectacular through from start to finish, and we almost got that.

The support act, punk era also-rans Television Personalities started plying their trade before three quarters of the audience were born, but when they took the stage, most in attendance were willing to be educated. I know a lot more about the band now having read and listened after the gig, and the story of its founder Dan Treacy is not a happy one; drugs, prison and psychiatric illness seem to have left a deep impression on the man. Perhaps if the crowd had known these particulars they might have approached their set more charitably, but there was little to enthuse about in this performance. Treacy sung lead vocals two thirds of the time, in a braying monotone reminiscent of Mark E Smith, with few of the notes hitting their intended pitch. The rest of the band sounded competent enough, but the net effect was an unhappy assault on the ears. After three or four numbers in this vein, the crowd was getting testy, and the applause between songs was developing an undercurrent of boos. The lead singer took time out to say some dismissive things about Norwich, while his co-vocalist thought it would be witty to make reference to Alan Partridge. It's a shame that MGMT were watching the set from the audience, and you could see the genuine admiration for TVP on their faces. At the end of the performance the several TVP fans there tried to overwhelm the boos emanating from the crowd with some animated whooping, but the majority of the audience were keen to put this misfire behind them and get ready for MGMT.

And MGMT were great. rattling through numbers like The Youth, Time to Pretend and Weekend Wars with some poise and style. The performance was unfussy and slick, and just what everybody had turned up for, with none of the rumoured naivete. The audience quickly put the support act behind them and threw themselves into the set. The conspicuous absence was Kids, clearly being saved for the encore.

The encore. Oh dear. Rather than blast triumphantly through Kids, and leave the crowd wanting more. TVP were invited back on stage to rattle through some more of their creaky back catalogue, including the execrable I know where Syd Barret lives. The crowd, frustrated by this and rather more lubricated by alcohol than during TVP's first foray reacted in a way I've never seen a Norwich crowd act - by booing, shouting and showering the stage with nearly empty plastic beer glasses. MGMT, presumably affronted by the audience's failure to concur with their excellent taste in support acts took to throwing these back into the audience, a response which just pissed more people off, and to his credit Treacy continued singing throughout a virtual free-for-all, being hit on the head and body several times.

By the time the band got to Kids, both their goodwill and the crowd's had all been spent. They started the song under-strength, and it just kinda petered out. There was pretty much no applause, exeunt audience, mostly fuming.

As an object lesson in how not to read an audience this gig was a perfect one. MGMT were in the audience for TVP's poor reception, and had they any judgment, they would have pulled them from their encore. The gig would have been heartily improved by being 20 minutes shorter, and people would have left enthusing about how MGMT had pulled together a tight live show. Instead, they left moaning, insulted, and showered in beer dregs.

I'm sorry that Treacy had the reception he did in Norwich. He's had a tough time of it and seems to have been ruined by drugs. His band was obviously pretty creative and influential in its day, and no doubt a gig attended by dedicated fans (in a venue like the Arts Centre) who like or are willing to overlook his unique vocal style would have a good atmosphere. But MGMT's Waterfront gig did not turn out to be a friendly place for him, despite the venue's easygoing tradition.


  • timahall

    This is so depressing. I love the TVPs. Poor Dan.

    Nov 8 2008, 13h55
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