OK Go + Malpas @ O2 Academy 2, Birmingham, UK – 12 January 2010

Posted by Wayne Fox on Tuesday Jan 12, 2010 Under Pop, Rock

OK Go

I’ve been really struggling to write what I hope is a decent intro for this review of OK Go. A band that could wrongly be described as an Internet phenomenon based purely on the amount of hits their videos get via YouTube. Whether or not you’ve heard of the band or can picture at least one of their records. I’d stake money on you having seen one of their videos or at least seen blatant rip offs on TV. But before we get to OK Go.

Now might be a good time to introduce the support for this evening. Birmingham based Malpas are given the task of entertaining the 100 or so of brave souls who saw fit to ignore the Winter Wonderland weather.

Malpas

The five members of Malpas walk onto the extremely tight stage and advise that they’re ours for the next 25 minutes. Their opening track is a delightful fun filled ditty, which soon explodes onto another sound level with a driving rhythmic baseline accompanied by an electric violin. I find the sound of them to be extremely melodic and yet haunting at the same time.

Malpas

Resembling a musical hug, a feeling of warmth and feel good factor but mixed with the mournful tones of the violin. I really enjoyed the sound of them although at times I struggled to hear various elements of the band – in particular the flute. That’s correct, a flute. Part of the reason the stage was so tight for space was the instruments accompanying the band. Alongside the now familiar laptop Malpas also played the glockenspiel, ukulele and sitar. Regularly changing instruments, sometimes during the same song. As it goes though it made me want to here them again and get reacquainted another time.

Malpas

Their stage presence compliments the music they deliver perfectly. An unfussy look of cool, not overly pretentious by any means just exactly how you’d expect to dress for a mid week relaxed night out. The last song of their set sadly fell flat on its arse. It had nothing at all to do with the song though. As it was dedicated to ‘The end of the snow’ I for one was somewhat pleased to wake up the following morning and see a powder fresh dumping of more of the white stuff. Musicians you might be, weatherman you most certainly are not. They’ve a couple of shows in the coming weeks, 3rd February sees them play the Bulls Head in Moseley and reappearing at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath on 25th Feb.

Malpas

Imagine that you play in a band; the videos you put out rightly earn several million hits on YouTube. Everyone can picture a certain video featuring treadmills and yet not many people know your name and those that do might regard you as one hit wonders. It was these thoughts I had in mind before going to see OK Go live.

OK Go

How does a band who are capable of producing some of the best fun filled one shot pop videos convey that feeling on stage? Simply put and being quite brutal – they can’t. It’s not to say I was disappointed, to reproduce the quirkiness of a well-choreographed video was always going to be tough; but still they tried and give them their dues they managed to pull off a show that at times was original and wholly unexpected.

OK Go

Two hours before tonight’s gig there’s some uncertainty whether it will happen at all! Damian Kulash, the bands lead vocalist and guitarist is ill. Nobody seems to know what the problem is, but it’s giving Neil, the tour manager, some unwelcome stress on the second stop of their UK and mini European tour. All we know is that a doctor has been called and tonight’s show depends on that person’s orders.

OK Go

By the time the set is cleared and prepared for OK Go, the stage lights dim to pitch and all four members walk out onto centre stage. Tim Nordwind positions himself behind a stood bass drum and begins pounding with two fuzzy beaters. Unless you’re a ‘Twilight fan and have seen New Moon’, you’re not going to know this track at all. Given Damian’s illness, he doesn’t look 100% although he still sounds in fine voice, you wouldn’t even know just how close the gig was to being pulled. It’s only after ‘Get Over It’, does Damian explain the problem. “Anyone else in here had food poisoning? I have, I’ve been sick six times and all I’ve had today is water. But a dude with pills sorted me out…” Damian’s between song banter sets the tone for most of the night. At various stages of the polished set, you hear banter between the audience and Damian, some was comedic, most of it was sarcastic and some of it bordered on being offensive. I thought at one point, there was going to be a mini fight following a particular comment from an audience member. I guess some people need to lighten up a little, after all we are watching a band known for their lighthearted and sarcastic nature, are we not?

OK Go

OK Go play a good mixture of older more recognisable material and new material off the album ‘Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky’ that just happened to be released that day. The first new track played was ‘White Knuckles’, very heavily influenced by Prince. Imagine a slower paced ‘I Would Die For U’ and you wouldn’t be to far off the mark. Actually, there is quite a notable difference between the old and new. Their new tracks are much more beat driven and melodic with really catchy, simple little riffs, whereas the old are must much guitar focussed; although different when played alongside each other they blend together seamlessly.

It wasn’t until later in the set do you really get a feel for simple brilliance and fun loving eclectic nature of the band. During a brief pause, a blanketed table is set up with handbells, the band put down their usual instruments and perform ‘What To Do’ as campanologists. I hear a few chuckles from the crowd, including myself. It wasn’t as though it was particularly humorous, far from it, it was just wholly unexpected. Although the dry, deadpan expressions seen on stage did bring a smile or two… Along with the smiles and appreciative laughter it also brought by far the loudest cheers and applause of the night.

OK Go

Given Damian’s poisoning it’s admirable and with certain fighting spirit to see the rest of the band disappear leaving him on his lonesome to play an acoustic version of ‘Last Leaf’. The band reappear for a few more and finish on ‘This Too Shall Pass’ before the encore. Damian jumps down onto the crowd barrier and asks if we fancy singing. Giving singing instructions to a bunch of half arsed Brummies can never be an easy job, especially if it means getting us singing along to a chorus we don’t yet really know; but Damian tries and succeeds in a fashion. The track featureless of guitars is a drum and keyboard fest with the chorus “LET IT GO THIS TOO SHALL PASS’. This is a chorus that really gets under your skin, several days later and I still can’t it get out of my head.

OK Go

However long it takes to fit an LED panel to the back of four suit jackets is how long the encore break lasts. OK Go re-emerge once again onto the pitch stage with their backs facing the audience. Silver jumping flashes of LED’s eventually reveal the letters O K G O. ‘WTF!’ is the intro track to ‘Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky’. As intro’s go ‘WTF!’ is enriched with an electro deep pulsing bass line revealing more Prince inspired vocals, cowbells and a cranked guitar solo. ‘Skyscrapers’ is a down tempo pulsing rhythmic guitar focussed number and has Damian straining his vocal range to reach the high notes. Surprisingly, he doesn’t make to bad a job managing to pull off the highs without it sounding as though he’s screaming just to try and get close. The evening finally draws to a close with ‘Invincible’ Quite a fitting end considering how bad Damian must have felt prior to the show and grateful at having made it through the entire set without decorating the front row with a psychedelic technicolor yawn.

I fear I may have expected a bit too much from OK Go as I hoped for a stage show that was equal to their videos. Given the size of the stage and most probably the budget, it was never really going to happen. Having said that, I look back on the night still with a smile on my face and realising that all the elements were there. I just happened to not notice them at the time, as all my focus was on the band. The LCD screens throughout the venue all showed clips of the videos and live fish eye camera footage of the guys as they played. For a group who’s stage wear resembled a cross between the Monkees and the Beatles, they laid down a fun and very entertaining evening. OK Go deserve a wider audience, but when you have YouTube on your side could you ever want for more?

OK Go

OK Go

Set List:
Shooting The Moon
Get Over It
A Million Ways
White Knuckles
I Want You So Bad I Can’t breathe
Oh Lately It’s So Quiet
Back From Kathmandu
Don’t Ask Me
Here It Goes Again
What To Do (Bells)
Last Leaf (Acoustic)
It’s A Disaster
A Good Idea At The Time
This Too Shall Pass

Encore
WTF!
Skyscrapers
Invincible



You can see an interview with Tim Nordwind from OK Go here…


Words by Lee Hathaway
Photos by Wayne Fox

2 Responses to “OK Go + Malpas @ O2 Academy 2, Birmingham, UK – 12 January 2010”

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