Live review: OK Go @ the Fox TheatreBy Marc Hobelman | October 7th, 2010 | 5 comments
You’re missing out if you haven’t been keeping up with OK Go’s contributions to the art of the online music video. You didn’t miss anything, however, if you skipped OK Go kicking off their new tour at the Fox in Boulder on Wednesday. That’s the band’s dilemma. My expectation of their showmanship was very high, precisely because of the brilliant, low-budget, single-take videos. Their Internet notoriety has definitely become a burden for the band’s live show.
OK Go launched into their set with a couple of quick hits from their first two albums. Then singer Damian Kulash injected a jarring break to get audience members to text their email addresses to the band’s new dedicated marketing phone number. They were already struggling to show any energy on stage, and now I was preparing myself to be inundated with promotional offers. It was a terrible start.
A lot of OK Go’s live ideas were gimmicky and tired. They didn’t seem to have any original ideas for a band that has a reputation for ingenuity. Some of their stage props came directly from the Wayne Coyne School of Live Performance playbook. Each mic stand had a camera attached that projected a black and white image of a given band member behind them. The three confetti machines vomited at the beginning of every third song. I’m very surprised they didn’t opt for hopping into a giant bubble and walking over the top of the crowd (like other artists seem to be trying).
If the well-worn stage tricks weren’t enough of a drag, OK Go’s half-assed attempts to embrace their online fame drove the nail into the coffin. The screen behind the band showed an endless combination of bright colored damask patterns paired with spinning treadmills while they played “Here It Goes Again.” That song got big cheers at least. When Kulash introduced “A Million Ways,” he asked the crowd if they were “ready to dance?” They started playing in front of a still image of the nicely landscaped patio area where they recorded their original viral video. No one, including the band, made any attempt at replicating that dance routine. It was as if the crowd was saying, “We get it. You’re good at memorizing dance routines. Why is there still a nicely landscaped patio area behind you?”
Thankfully, OK Go dispensed with most of this non-committal pageantry early. The show did pick up. They did a charming version of “What To Do” entirely on hand bells. It was the turning point of an otherwise completely lackluster set. The last song before the encore was “White Knuckles,” their most recent wonderful online video release. It was a good set up for an entirely entertaining encore. The band came back on stage after exchanging their PBS daytime blazers for some amazing digital jackets and flashy fur- and neon-covered guitars. The next three songs were good — more like what I thought most of the show was going to be.
Sometimes a strong closer is all it takes to leave the impression of a great show. That wasn’t the case here. I would avoid this tour until OK Go irons out some of their significant performance wrinkles.