OK Go

After practically skidding to the venue, I'm surprised that someone somewhere has convinced OK Go it's a good idea to be usurped from sunny California and dropped off in a version of Birmingham currently undergoing an Arctic makeover. On top of this, lead singer Damian Kulash has food poisoning. My hopes of their set providing a particularly perky blast of sunshine to thaw the ice are looking less and less likely.

Before I can warm up to their impeccably fashioned pop rock (or, alternatively, be targeted by the lead's projectile vomit), I bunch up all snug next to the other freezing patrons in the Academy 2 for the best kind of surprise. Malpas, a band based in the city but unfamiliar to me, are a revelation; my pal whispers to me that this multi-instrumental quintet look like 'they've just awoken from a dream', and my counterpoint to this is that they sound like they're still basking in said dream. Their half-hour slot trades in a swooping and poetic folk kissed by electronica, and led by frontman Ali Forbes (formerly of Envy & Other Sins) who is so charismatic he could happily sell off some surplus on eBay and still be a very promising lead. However, the undeniable pinch of magic their set possesses is a group concoction, with all five members picking up and discarding instruments - we're talking glockenspiel, violin, ukelele and sitar on top of the usual band-and-laptop setup - sometimes within the same song. They even possess that most dangerous of weapons: a synth-happy female on backing vox. I'm expecting good things, y'all.



Of course, the danger in being blindsided by the support is that the main act will disappoint. Silly me. After having already enjoyed their own support slot alongside Brendan Benson in Wolverhampton circa 2005, I'm won all over again from the get-go, which is announced by bassist Tim Nordwind taking to the stage and banging on a marching drum. The rest of the band emerge, including a peaky-looking Damian, and win over the teens immediately with Shooting the Moon, their cut from the New Moon soundtrack. Looking decidedly dapper as usual, the quartet waste no time in charming long-term fans by powerhousing their way through debut single Get Over It and the angular funk of A Million Ways (sadly devoid of the impromptu dance that accompanied it back in Wolvo, bah!) and Damian already looks a little more spirited.

Although their set is happy to indulge the past, with the likes of the eternally pretty Oh Lately It's So Quiet and bouncy joy Don't Ask Me no doubt being heard for the first time by curious fans only familiar with 'the treadmill song', this tour is in support of new album Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (reviewed by fellow TMFer Ian Sandwell here) and so the ten of us in attendance who own the first two albums can also enjoy the newbies. The first example White Knuckles sets the tone, taking the OK Go formula of power-pop guitars and hooks and adding a newfound groove that hits on a euphoria entirely deserving of the confetti blast that accompanies its denouement. Damian once again defies his poorly tummy to perform an admirable acoustic version of Last Leaf but the band work best as a unit, as evidenced by This Too Shall Pass which shamelessly goes for the sing-along jugular - of course, with it being a new track, we aren't altogether familiar with it and so Damian jumps into the crowd to learn us the lines. We survive, thankfully free of vomit, and have a new chorus to chant on the way out of the venue.

The evening carries a party vibe throughout thanks to further blasts of the confetti canon, some entertaining backing vids and a striking set of jackets encrusted with LED letters that join together to spell out the band's name. However, those waiting for a re-enactment of the Here It Goes Again video's misuse of gym equipment are met with a shape-free but no less energetic performance of the song. That's not to say the foursome have grown up dull though; immediately after the track that catapulted them to online viral stardom, they put down guitars and drumsticks to demonstrate their synchronisation skills by performing What to Do entirely via voice and, erm, church bells. I kid you not - hit YouTube now for proof that these boys' talents are not limited to impressive dance moves.



After this brief interlude, which provides a quiet and unexpected note of majesty, it's back to high energy rockers that propel us to an encore that saves the new album's best tracks for last. Lead single WTF's psychedelic undertones (check out the colourful video above) carries on the aforementioned groove, while Skyscrapers is possibly the best thing they've done, threading together a throbbing pulse, scratchy guitars and a superbly agitated vocal from Damian to result in something that sounds like Black Francis getting a wee bit frisky to the sounds of Prince. Topped off by a quick blast through Invincible, it's a superb finish to an audio-visual treat that proves this band are at the top of their genre: specifically, the 'great bands most people only own one song by' genre.

OK Go in snowy Birmingham - verdict: it got hot in therre.

Last updated: 18/04/2018 17:35:40

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