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Ok Go Keeps It Simple to Rock the House Of Blues

Ok Go
House of Blues Boston
May 7th 2010

Ok Go has always been a band with an identity crisis. Are they pop stars who should be playing in front of thousands of screaming fans every night? Are they a mature alternative rock band that should be mentioned on every critic’s “best of” list? Are they music industry pioneers? Are they a group of guys with way too much time on their hands?

To some extent, all of these characterizations are true, and maybe that’s why they constantly appear to be on the brink of stardom, but haven’t quite achieved it yet. They seemed awfully close based on the size of the crowd at the House of Blues in Boston on May 7th. With fans packing the floor and wrapping around the upper balconies, Ok Go showcased their best material while fitting in a few laughs for good measure.

With the Red Sox at home and playing the Yankees across the street at Fenway Park, the night got off to a late start with opening sets from Robert Francis and Earl Greyhound. Neither band was very impressive, and in fact, Earl Greyhound’s improvisational jam sessions sent at least a few members of the audience streaming to the merch tables, balconies, or anywhere else they could find shelter.

Ok Go finally took the stage at 10 and easily made up for the sub-par openers with an hour and half set that was at times exuberant, at others introspective, and always entertaining. While they may be best known for their crazy videos, their musical chops are what help them stand out in a live setting like this, for every song sounded sharp and nearly CD quality while being pumped through the House of Blues sound system, which seemed to be dialed up to 11 on this night.

While the band did sample a host of songs from their first two records, the focus was certainly on their latest effort, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky. The CD is without question one of the best alternative releases this year,and it’s a shame it hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Most in the crowd seemed only somewhat familiar with the new tracks, either politely bobbing their heads or staring blankly while the band ripped through gems like “All Is Not Lost” and “White Knuckles.”

This was my third Ok Go show, and each time the crowd has been disappointingly unenthusiastic. On this night, only a handful of fans bothered to sing or bounce along, despite the fact the music seems to lend itself perfectly to  such behavior. There were exceptions, of course. Older favorites “Get Over It” and “Don’t Ask Me”  both elicited welcome sing alongs.

During the middle of the set, lead singer Damian Kulash stepped down from the stage to perform “Last Leaf” while standing on a small box in the

Kulash in the crowd

middle of the venue. Surrounded by photo-snapping fans, Kulash expertly worked his way through the acoustic number that is one of Blue Colour’s standout tracks. The charismatic frontman also provided comedy-club quality quips throughout the set, chiding the Boston crowd for their accents, their nerd-like tenancies, and their general uncleanliness.

As they had on past tours, the band would attempt to cleanse the “filthy masses” by performing “What to Do” using only hand bells, or “the instrument that God himself invented,” according to Kulash. While it may not have achieved its stated goal, the performance still sounded great and was beyond amusing to watch.

Kulash would return to the floor to stir up the crowd during “This To Shall Pass.” The set closer, which has  gained notoriety on the strength of its zany video, had the crowd bouncing up and down while belting out the final chorus. The quartet would leave the stage and then return for a three song encore which began with “WTF?” The band brought back to the stage a  trio of tricked out guitars that shot laser beams into the crowd as they were being played. Coupled with their LED adorned jackets, Ok Go gave further proof to the fact that they have the always-useful combination of ambition and plenty of free time.

The show would come to an end with “Do What You Want.” It was a solid ending to tremendously impressive set from one of today’s most underrated rock bands. While they may not be able to inspire many huge sing-alongs or circle pits, their technical ability is second to none. In addition, Kulash has a knack for making everyone in the venue seem like an old friend, not to mention a very impressive vocal range. While their videos may be complex affairs, their rather straight forward live shows are where the real excitement is.

Ok Go Set List (I believe it’s accurate)
A Million Ways
All Is Not Lost
I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe
White Knuckles
Oh Lately It’s So Quiet
A Good Idea at the Time
Here It Goes Again
What To Do (Handbells)
Last Leaf
Get Over It
Don’t Ask Me
Back From Kathmandu
Debaser (Pixies cover)
This To Shall Pass

Do What You Want

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