I have to preface the OK Go show in Kansas City with a few initial warnings and observations. The first is that if you go to an OK Go show expecting to understand any of the lyrics that frontman Damien Kulash is blaring out, you will be gravely disappointed. He belts a good voice, but it is mostly trumped by the instruments and muddled in good, yet somewhat incomprehensible falsetto. Second, if there is ever a free OK Go show in your area and you think, “I’ll show up around start time and get in no sweat,” you might want to think again. We rolled up to the venue an hour and forty-five minutes before the show was set to start (mind you, there were three openers) and encountered a line stretching nearly a block. We were able to secure tickets somewhat easily, but showing up “on time” would have made for a disappointing evening. Third, if there is a show you want to see at The Midland or Uptown Theater in Kansas City and you are debating attendance, suck it up and go. Both venues will surprise and delight, and Kansas City is the tops. I recommend the Midland over uptown, but only because of connotative experience.
Concerning the show, the Chicago-based band simply knows how to perform. They want to be known for more than just their “wicked cool and creative” music videos and they very well should be. However, it’s going to be tough for them to get proper recognition for such things as showmanship and musicality if they keep recording such “wicked cool and creative” music videos. We were informed at the show that they recently stayed up until four in the morning with 12 NASA engineers plotting their next video. So be on the look-out for something nebular (space joke). Although their show did live up to music video hype, the “music” of the evening did not steal the show. It might sound horrible to a musician’s ear, but the most intriguing aspect of their show didn’t rely on musical ability. Their creativity in presentation was what kept all eyes stage-centered.
They performed the song, “What To Do,” to the tune of traditional hand bells. Kulash made a statement regarding how they were going to do what Sunday morning had failed to perfect. While the hand bells didn’t sound all that great and Kulash’s voice, due to mic positioning, sounded a country away, it was a noble and engaging effort. The attempt might have been less than “Sunday morning perfection,” but the guts to stick their neck out and attempt hand bells is quite astounding, especially given how awful the hand bells typically sound.
Another stunt that is not specific to OK Go yet still packed a mean punch was Kulash’s mic cam. We were in the balcony so we got a stellar view of the screen on which the cam was being displayed. It was eerie. Kulash stared at us (via his mic) in a discolored black and white setting. Honestly, I don’t even remember the song being sung at the time. I was more concerned with the Wizard of Oz, a.k.a. Damien Kulash, glaring down at me.
The last effect involved lighting. This encompasses a few things. They had psychedelic lighting on the back of their jackets that scrolled, which was fairly cool. Obviously they had classic stage lighting that highlighted Kulash, faded in and out, and accompanied the screen show. But, the neatest lighting trick of all (and the one that made for the best pic) was the colored lights around the guitars that they donned toward the end of the show. With all stage lighting turned down, they appeared with different colored lights outlining their guitars. It was at this point that OK Go busted into “This Too Shall Pass,” inviting the audience to stand in for the vocals of the Notre Dame marching band. Tim Norwind, bass guitar and backing vocals, said that our singing wasn’t as good as a group of Europeans (Spanish, I think) who didn’t know English. While that upset a few of the audience members who were hoping for their big break, most of us were harmlessly amused by the comment.
The band did play “Here It Goes Again,” but they didn’t cart out treadmills for a video reenactment. They did, however, display dancing treadmills on the projection screen. If you haven’t listened to the song without the visual effect, I highly recommend trying it just once. The song can stand on its own. Of course, it is much better when it runs on treadmills.