Live Music + Gig Reviews

OK Go @ Electric Ballroom, London

28 July 2010

With an explosion of confetti and the stabbing chords of Invincible, OK Go burst on to a crowded stage in front of a slightly less crowded venue in Camden, starting a set filled with the surprising inventiveness that has come to define a band known more for their YouTube hits than their live shows.

The Electric Ballroom might be a little on the shabby side but the band are without pretence, displaying images from pre-recorded videos on what is little more than a sheet hung from the lighting rig. The video also displays feeds of the band members from the four mic stand mounted cameras, reminiscent of Radiohead‘s Jigsaw Falling Into Place film. Chopping between earlier songs like A Million Ways and tracks from their most recent album Of the Blue Color Of The Sky, the band and the crowd settle in to a comfortable level of visual stimulation mixed with their pop rock.

Winding back through their history from All Is Not Lost to A Good Idea At The Time, they end up at their breakthrough conveyor belt YouTube hit Here It Goes. It’s a highlight of the night for most of the audience, but no-one could be more impressed than the lucky punter asked to strum frontman Damian Kulash’s guitar from the front of the mosh.

Shifting down a gear, each member of the band dons white cotton gloves before crowding around a table of brass handbells. Amplified with lapel mics for the vocals, Kulash and crew manage a stirring version of EP track What To Do with no other instruments than the well rehearsed and (not quite) flawless ringing of handbells. After the song they all bow at the waist, receiving some well earned acclamation from fans who have arrived precisely to see a unique performance of this kind.

After gently ribbing the British Empire, Kulash heads in to the centre of the crowd by himself as “a peace offering” handing out some token tambourines on the way. Once positioned amongst the masses he performs Last Leaf, a slow acoustic ballad perfect for the calm before the storm. Weaving back through the crush and the bowels of the venue he arrives back on stage with the rest of the band to close out the set with Don’t Ask Me and End Love in quick succession before the band invoke mass audience participation for This Too Shall Pass.

Smoke machines work hard to fill the ballroom with a pea-souper between sets, setting the stage for the big finale. Bedecked in jackets wired with flashing lights, OK Go kick off the encore with a dazzling display of guitars fitted with lasers sweeping across the crowd. It’s a great way to reach a zenith, because who doesn’t want to see laser guitars? Channelling Prince for WTF brings a funkadelic climax to the night, but it closes out with a denouement that is stretched over a few album tracks, causing the set to lose steam towards the end. A shame, because until then it was an incredibly well paced and tightly structured entity.

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More on OK Go
OK Go – Hungry Ghosts
Interview: OK Go
OK Go @ Electric Ballroom, London
OK Go – Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky
Ok Go – Oh No