MGMT / Florence And The Machine
Brighton Digital 19/05/08

The support for this show by hotly tipped MGMT came from unknown quantities Florence And The Machine, a band built around Florence's outstanding and breathtaking voice. Free badges of birdcages and set highlight Birdsong give a strange theme to the set, whilst Florence's enthusiasm for this singing lark (sorry) should have people flocking (sorry again) to future performances. They also threw in a brave cover of the little known Cold War Kids track Hospital Beds. It's a superb song, and one so suited to Florence's voice that they achieved the near impossible and made the cover sound like one of their own songs and sound different enough to the original to have made it worthwhile doing. Despite enjoying them, they didn't manage to maintain all of the crowds' attention which was a shame as I felt they gave an impressive performance.

Sadly Brighton Digital isn't really a venue particularly suited to live performances. It's ostensibly a nightclub which means you have to deal with extortionately priced drinks, a barely raised up stage, a leaky roof dripping onto the middle of the venue, a lack of stage space (Florence's drummer remained out of sight of the audience) and whopping great pillars, obstructing many of the audience's (including my own) view of the bands. It wasn't helped by the "sellout" crowd being so large that many people had to try to watch from the adjoining room where I'm sure they could see bugger all and hear not that much. As an aside, this is a situation brought on by a lack of mid-sized venues in Brighton, which has also seen two high-profile venues close in recent weeks.

These issues weren't enough to spoil MGMT's performance which lived up to my already lofty expectations. Their debut album Oracular Spectacular surprised me with its mix of accessibility, depth and notable maturity. Tonight they took their songs and adapted them for the live setting. Anthems Time To Pretend, Kids and standout track Electric Feel became the mass singalongs that you'd expect, with their immense sound washing over you and surely filling anyone listening with joy. Their other tracks however gathered a more meandering and experimental style, clearly a technique of performance they feel very comfortable delivering. This made them a sort of band of two halves, probably splitting the crowds' enjoyment somewhat. It's a slightly confused identity, which personally I loved, but could stifle their appeal long term. I'd rather they kept away from too much on-stage experimentation but I'm sure others would disagree and rather see the poppier elements fall by the wayside. It'll be interesting what direction their next album takes, and the live performances that go with it.

Overall this was a delightfully executed and thoroughly enjoyable gig by a band hopefully destined for bigger, and less leaky, venues.

By Alan Smith