Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Concert review: OK Go at the State Room

Posted By on April 14, 2010, 10:26 AM

OK Go? Yeah, City Weekly went. And we found a band that lands somewhere between Weezer and Flaming Lips (without being as good as either), with a dash of Glee-ful music geekdom thrown in.---

The State Room isn't the typical Salt Lake City landing spot for a power-pop band like OK Go, especially one with a fan base dominated by the Web-savvy teeny boppers who turned the band's "Here It Goes Again" and "This Too Shall Pass" videos into viral sensations. But the venue that normally hosts more "adult" fare had no problem accommodating the launch of the band's first tour since its new album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, arrived earlier this year—along with all the bells and whistles that came with it.

And I mean bells literally—one of the highlights of the show was a song where the band members put down their instruments and gathered around a table of hand bells, delivering the next song unamplified, just voices and bells. It was a pleasant departure from a set dominated by power-pop riffs that, while pleasing enough, were tough to differentiate from each other for a relative newcomer to the OK Go catalog.

That said, OK Go clearly has skills. Singer/guitarist Damian Kulash is obviously the leader, and he has a knack for crafting poppy hooks, along with a voice that is pliable enough to hit some nice falsetto highs when he needs to. Guitarist/keyboardist Andy Ross might be the band's sonic MVP, adding some nice guitar solos when the band was headed to rawk-ier ground than its normal dance-pop footing. The band's willingness to toy with bells, disco, rock and pop is no surprise given that Kulash and bassist Tim Nordwind met as pre-teens at band camp—they've probably tried their collective hand at a number of styles as they've grown up, finding many of them useful for informing their current sound. (They also wrote the fight song for Chicago's soccer team—OK Go are clearly not snobby about how their music is presented).

Songs like "Don't Ask Me," "Here It Goes Again" (played surprisingly early in the set) and "What To Do" were all clearly crowd favorites. The confetti canon, video screens and intricate light show all helped the band make the songs feel much larger than they sound on CD. The visuals are certainly an important feature in how OK Go goes about its business, but their show proved they aren't only a video sensation; they can actually deliver in a live environment.

I could have lived with a lot less running commentary from Kulash between songs about Utah's oddities (Yeah, we know, we have 3.2 beer here. Thanks for telling us, oh, about six different times). And his attitude was almost so cocky as to be offputting—especially considering OK Go's music essentially travels a path well-traveled by bands like Weezer and Flaming Lips (or The Cars and Cheap Trick for readers in my age range).

But I have no complaints about a band that tries to create a party vibe, and largely succeeds at it. Getting Salt Lakers on the dance floor on a Tuesday is not a task every band is up to, but OK Go did the trick.

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