Live: OK GO @ KOKO

Los Angeles based OK Go are at least as well known for their innovative and technically grand music videos as they are for their eccentric brand of alternative pop/rock. The videos, always visually spectacular and often hewn from a single shot, are a viral phenomenon: Here It Goes Again (nimble choreography on multiple treadmills) – close to quarter of a billion YouTube views; This Too Shall Pass (increasingly manic paint chucking Rube Goldberg Machine) – close to half a billion. The videos are such an intrinsic part of the operation that it’s hard to tell whether OK Go are a band that makes videos, or a film production company that writes songs.

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

OK GO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

The other question that needs an answer is how this quirky inventiveness translates into a concert environment. On this tour to promote new album Hungry Ghosts, a UK audience only had one opportunity to find out, as OK Go dropped into the galleried splendour of KOKO, Camden for the briefest of pit stops before heading out to the Far East.

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

OK GO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

Initial impressions are favourable: as expectation builds, one can’t help but notice multiple projector screens (looks like we’re going to get the film production element), as indeed we’re clearly going to get confetti – in abundance. There are canons pointing upwards that look like they could down a light aircraft. When asked how frequently the confetti goes off, the KOKO security guy advises: “Continuously”.

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

OK GO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

Lights down and we start with video. Clips stripped from increasingly iconic films featuring the words “Okay” and “Go”, culminate in Kermit the Frog welcoming the band to the stage. It’s good, but considering the video pyrotechnics we’ve become used to, is perhaps a little underwhelming. OK Go then hit us with Upside Down/Inside Out, the first cut from the new record. With its samples and stabs, it’s more electronic in flavour than earlier material. You’re So Damn Hot and The Writing’s On The Wall (another from the new record) follow in quick succession. The band is barely discernable through a haze of confetti. The KOKO guy wasn’t kidding.

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

OK GO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

As we progress, it becomes clear that just playing the songs isn’t enough for OK Go. Singer Damian Kulash randomly pauses to participate in Q&A with the crowd. He is quite the raconteur, engaging and entertaining in equal measure. At There’s A Fire, we reach “The nerdiest point in the show, as if the rest wasn’t nerdy enough”, with Kulash and drummer Dan Konopka pausing to record audience generated percussion samples on Kulash’s phone. Kulash sings it with just the phone for accompaniment. It’s a neat trick. Next, Kulash vaults the barrier to perform Last Leaf from the middle of the floor with just his acoustic guitar and a mic on a stand that miraculously got there just before he did. It’s a highly immersive experience for all concerned – and it all manages to look as spontaneous as it is actually very carefully choreographed – clever stuff if you can pull it off. Kind of like those videos…

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

The set closes out with Turn Off The Radio – another from Hungry Ghosts. At the lyric turn off the radio, turn off the lights they do just that and the band melt into the darkness. A three-song encore ensues concluding with crowd favourite Here It Goes Again – which is short on treadmills, but big on audience participation – the first couple of rows being encouraged to jump the barrier and join Kulash et al on stage for a sing-a-long and a collective post-gig hug.

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

OKGO Perform at KOKO, Camden Town on 13th February 2015 (Simon Reed)

The lights go up and as the audience disperses, the work of the canons is clear to see. The confetti is ubiquitous – we’re practically knee deep in the stuff. Whilst the KOKO staff valiantly (and vainly) sweep, confetti fights abound and those not chucking it around are lying in it making confetti angels. The smiles all around tell you that OK Go translates very well indeed to the concert environment. Friday 13th might be unlucky for some, but this was a great night out and one I look forward to repeating next time they’re here.

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Photography & Review by Simon Reed. OK Go @ KOKO, 13 February 2015. Simon has his own great website here:http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk

See the whole shoot on RockShot here: http://images.rockshotmagazine.com/#!/index/G0000N6tvJn0yJ0c

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