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OK Go concert features powerful stage effects

By AMANDA AUBLE | April 16, 2015


In a colorful, multimedia concert experience, pop-rock group OK Go buried its Rams Head, Live! audience in confetti and interacted with fans last Sunday night.

Consisting of band members Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka and Andy Ross, OK Go has released four studio albums since its 1998 formation; however, the group’s creative online music videos have garnered them the most mainstream acclaim.

Racking up millions of YouTube views, the videos have progressed from precise treadmill dancing in the Grammy-Award-winning video “Here it Goes Again” to elaborate optical illusions in video for their latest single “The Writings on the Wall.”

OK Go’s live show refrains from simply recreating these complex videos. Instead, the group’s use of special effects and light shows reproduces their signature creative feel with a fuller sensory experience. Performing songs from their latest album, Hungry Ghosts, OK Go gave fans personalized moments and an entrancing light display throughout the show.

While the audience waited for the band to begin, a transparent sheet dropped in front of the stage. Some of the younger, high-school aged audience members initially started making shadow puppets against this curtain, but an opening scene soon covered the screen. Famous movies clips, including those from The Breakfast Club and Beverly Hills Cop, appeared and were edited so that the iconic characters repeated the words “OK Go.”

After this build up, the band took the stage to perform the upbeat, electronic rock single “Upside Down and Inside Out.” The band members themselves were clearly visible, but the screen simultaneously projected close-ups of their faces as well as hypnotizing black and white digital patterns. This produced an entrancing 3D effect. 

Although this visual illusion risked feeling like a barrier, the screen remained lifted for most of the show, especially when the band decided to connect more with the audience. Lead singer Damian Kulash defied the typical concert dynamic as he crowd surfed and plunged into the center of the audience with his guitar to perform a song. Without the additional aid of a microphone, Kulash sang an acoustic version of “Last Leaf” from 2010’s Of the Blue Colour of the Sky surrounded by audience members.

Kulash also initiated the first of several question-and-answer segments with fans, who asked anything from musical to personal questions. Bassist Tim Norwind also answered questions ranging from requests like “Will you be my bae?” to “Will you go to prom with me?”

The band also attempted to incorporate audience participation by formulating and recording a new song live. The audience acted like a drum kit, stomping to create a kick drum sound and hissing to mimic a high hat cymbal.

The beats were then played on a loop. However, despite the band’s best effort to add their own electronic and vocal touches, the overall result was not a cohesive sounding rhythm.

In a unique moment for fans, Kulash performed his own rendition of legendary rock group Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” Kulash’s unrestrained and soulful vocals gave the classic rock song a contagious new energy and produced a grittier sound, contrasting with the band’s usually airy vocals. The audience responded to Kulash’s original cover and actively sang along.

Besides the dynamic lighting techniques and interactive moments, confetti served as the show’s other integral effect. Most live shows typically choose to dump confetti sparingly or just as a finale, but OK Go’s concert bombarded fans with blasts from confetti cannons.

In fact, the blasts were not even limited to one per song. Certain performances, such as “This Too Shall Pass” and “Won’t Let You Down,” were punctuated with confetti throughout their choruses. Although massive amounts of paper scraps were left on the floor and on audience members themselves, this special effect didn’t feel excessive, and it appealed to the younger audience.

The curtain dropped again as the band concluded their set, but after more applause from the audience, the screen illuminated with a montage of the band’s various Internet videos. Returning to the stage for an encore, OK Go danced a precisely choreographed routine to their song “A Million Ways.” Dressed in matching white jumpsuits, this routine was reminiscent of their usual music video dynamic.

The lights then went dark, and the band members’ suits glowed different colors under a blacklight. As they performed their final song, “Here It Goes Again,” glow-in-the-dark bubbles started to fly from the stage.

Instead of a separate group warming up the crowd, band members Norwind and Konopka deejayed songs and played their own mixes. Although the band’s main performance excelled with effects and crowd interaction, this opening act felt rushed and lacked energy.

Despite the upbeat nature of the tracks, the crowd took a longer time to start dancing. This resulted in an awkward, unsure atmosphere at the show’s start.

In spite of the makeshift feel that the opening segment introduced, the exciting multimedia and precise nature of the band’s main set was strong enough to surpress any initial hesitations. Concert-goers left OK Go’s concert covered in confetti and full of energy.

The band will continue its North American Tour and plans to head south, hitting Houston on April 17, Dallas on April 18, San Antonio on April 20 and Oklahoma City on April 21.

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