OK Go, Shepherd's Bush O2 Empire, London
Just as Ozzy Osbourne's live shows will always seem tame in comparison to the famous incident of the decapitated bat, so any band whose success is predicated largely on one of the most iconic music videos of the YouTube age will struggle to have the same appeal live. It is with this unfortunate caveat that OK Go hit the stage tonight, without the treadmills that made "Here It Goes Again" an online sensation. They rattle through a back-catalogue that veers between some uncomfortably generic earlier material and the improved offerings from recent LP Of The Blue Colour of the Sky.
Largely, the veteran producer Dave Fridman is to blame for this disparity – his excellent work on the new album draws out a sound familiar to those who have heard his efforts with MGMT and The Flaming Lips, adding new depth to the OK Go's previously so-so recordings.
When these earlier songs are given a run out, the band's eclecticism is sometimes stifling; on tonight's rendition of "Oh Lately It's So Quiet", the falsetto musings of a lonely young man whose girlfriend has taken on some worrying spectral properties sound more like the ghosts of radio-friendly soft-rock past revisiting Shepherd's Bush Empire for one last hurrah. Without the energy of the opener, the frantic pop-punk staple "Get Over It", it's hard to see what there is to raise them above the "cookie cutter" indie charges that have been levelled at them.
At times, though, this straightforwardness is an advantage; with "You're so damn hot" and "I want you so bad I can't breathe", the band revel in their set's asphyxiating simplicity with an enthusiasm that is enough to leave even the most hardened cynic light-headed, and by the time we hit their acoustic counterpoint in "Last Leaf", things are looking up. Before that though, there's an example of the kind of one-take setpiece for which they're famous, albeit in video form, when the four band-members perform "What To Do" on hand bells in a charming display of musicianship and charisma.
Over the course of the evening it becomes clear that their earlier material is an artistic ball-and-chain for a group whose recent maturity could propel them, if not into the mainstream, then at least towards greater critical success. With more ambitious new tracks like "WTF" and "Skyscraper", it's clear there's hope for the band yet.
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