MGMT Get an Assist from the Kids at Chicago Benefit

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MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden / Photo by Laura Gray
WRITTEN BY
Kevin Bronson

MGMT's biggest hit took on an added dimension on Friday at Chicago's House of Blues. Before the psych-pop quintet's piquant headlining set at the Dare 2 Dream benefit concert -- co-sponsored by SPIN -- eight children from the night's beneficiary, the People's Music School, came onstage for a quick acoustic appearance.

Yeah, they covered "Kids." In fact, the flautist (who played the song's circular synth line) kinda killed it.

It was a feel-good moment on a night with several, all benefiting a 500-strong school devoted to giving music lessons to youngsters who otherwise could not afford them.

Los Angeles' AWOLNation opened the night with a set of spacey bombast, and Francis and the Lights followed with some synth 'n' soul that was part Robert Palmer, part Hall without the oats.

Then, with a house full of the charity's benefactors and fans who'd spent the day at Lollapalooza (where the band plays Sunday), MGMT proved a compelling if slightly inscrutable headliner.

Midway through the 1-hour, 20-minute set, the band delivered a dramatic rendition of "The Youth," backed visually by a video of posterized youngsters walking toward the camera." "Lock the parents out / Cut a rug, twist and shout," Andrew VanWyngarden sings there, and most in the capacity crowd embraced the spirit.

VanWyngarden, however, seemed not entirely comfortable in the four-tiered venue, which, like the others in the House of Blues franchise, is done up like a faux juke joint-meets-old opera house. "It's like being inside a giant wedding cake," he said.

He introduced "Song for Dan Treacy" as being "about someone who really does have the blues."

He gestured to an upper tier to acknowledge Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. Twice.

And near the end, he tore apart a stuffed toy and "sacrificed a guitar" onstage. "Sorry we had to do that," he said wryly. "I'm feeling weird vibes in here."

Maybe he was getting them, but MGMT wasn't necessarily giving them off. The fivesome played seven songs from Oracular Spectacular, the most recognizable of which -- "Kids," "Time to Pretend" and "Electric Feel" -- induced squeals of delight and squalls of dancing.

The crowd hung with VanWyngarden and bandmates through the more amorphous material on their latest album Congratulations. Between the music and visuals, MGMT turned "Flash Delirium" into sensory overload. And the band's late-set opus, the darkly misanthropic "Siberian Breaks," twisted and turned and unraveled and re-formed until near the end of its 11-plus minutes VanWyngarden sang one of the few lyrics that cut through sonic haze: "I hope I die before I get sold."

Now there's a sentiment that's not kid stuff at all.

MGMT Setlist:
Brian Eno
Destrokk
Flash Delirium
Electric Feel
Of Moons, Birds and Monsters
It's Working
The Youth
Song for Dan Treacy
Weekend Wars
I Found a Whistle
Time to Pretend
Siberian Breaks
Kids
Pieces of What
The Handshake
Congratulations

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