Known for their quirky music videos, which defined the viral video and redefined the music video, alternative rock band OK Go translated their creativity from single-take treadmill dances and unconventional drives to their second ever concert in Taipei at the National Taiwan University Sports Center.
Opening with the first track from their latest album Hungry Ghosts, “Upside Down & Inside Out”, the internet sensations took the stage in an eye-popping explosion of colorful confetti to the audience’s unconcealed delight.
This was followed by “You’re So Damn Hot” and “The Writing’s on the Wall”, a crowd favorite coupled with prismatic patterns on the projector screen that only got cooler (and trippier) as the night progressed.
In the live setting, stripped of their albums’ heavy synths, the audience could focus solely on the band’s music and vocals. And OK Go certainly didn’t disappoint, frontman Damian Kulash performing lesser known songs such as “I Want You So Bad” and “Obsession”, the latter with a mean falsetto, with equal tenacity.
The quartet made the most of the venue, showcasing the trove of gimmicks they had up their sleeves, pushing the boundaries on the concept of a “concert” the same way they have continuously sought to redefine their own music and videos.
With OK Go, audience participation is so much more than just singing along to “This Too Shall Pass”, it’s a full-on collaboration wherein the crowd actively becomes the band’s drum set. Kulash recorded fans alternatively stomping and clapping on his iPhone, which drummer Dan Konopka then remixed to form the backbone of a cute and creative take on “There’s a Fire” featuring guitarist/keyboardist Andy Ross on an ukulele.
The band also covered a lot of musical breadth, performing a wide range of genres from acoustic to experimental. The former saw Kulash perform an acoustic solo of what he called “the campfire song” – “Last Leaf” – in the audience. Halfway through the song, comedic timing en pointe, he considerately turns to face the other side of the auditorium so as not to deprive any concertgoer of a good view (and photograph).
As Kulash makes his way back on stage, bassist Tim Nordwind takes the stage to answer some questions in a second intimate Q&A session, cracking jokes as he fielded questions from the audience. The band generously did three Q&As, which elicited some bizarre questions – “Will you play with me?” – and equally outrageous responses. When asked whether they would shoot anything in Taiwan, Kulash quipped, “No we don’t believe in violence. We won’t shoot anyone in Taiwan. Oh, you mean videos? We don’t believe in those either. OK Go’s gonna stop making videos.”
The 90-minute set did lose some steam as songs got slower and things more alternative. A more experimental take of “Needing/Getting” involved Kulash recording a live loop, while “The One Moment” and the sexy-sounding “Skyscrapers” were paired with some psychedelic visuals.
Fortunately things quickly picked up with the fist-pump anthem “Get Over It” – a high point no doubt – as confetti rained down on a wild audience belting out the chorus. The kaleidoscopic disco continued with “Do What You Want”, which saw maximum utilization of innovatively placed GoPro cameras (on each band member’s microphone), which then projected the four’s faces, as well as the audience, into tessellating images on screen.
Finishing the song chanting “Do what you want Taipei! Do what you want Taiwan!”, Kulash quickly breaks into an instantly identifiable “Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove”. Before the audience has figured out what’s happened, a familiar bass line echoes across the stadium. It’s a fantastic cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” – Kulash dancing, moshing, channeling Robert Plant, his vocals resonating across the stadium of red haze, ending with a triumphant drum solo from Konopoka.
The band closes with the upbeat “Turn Off The Radio” that put a smile on everyone’s faces before finally heading back on stage for a long-awaited encore in matching white outfits to perform the dance sequence to “A Million Ways”. Nordwind is a real star here, leaving the audience positively giggling at the four’s synchronized dancing.
And in one final sweep, as the lights flick off for “White Knuckles” and the band’s final (and most popular) two songs – “I Won’t Let You Down” and “Here It Goes Again” – we discover that the suits are actually covered in invisible ink that glow in the dark! What’s more, the glow in the dark suits match their guitars! And there is glow in the dark confetti! It’s a jubilant, fluorescent overload that just heaps buckets of confetti on the crowd and practically demands they have fun.
From the seemingly endless supply of confetti to the flawless interaction between lighting, visuals and music that must have taken hours to coordinate, OK Go’s spectacle of a concert oozed artistry and a childlike playfulness – Kulash and Nordwind did meet at art camp as 11 year olds – creating a wholly different concert experience.
all images via IMC Live – Taipei