OK Go and Death Cab For Cutie rock and roll away the tears
Kate Healy
12/27/2006 9:23:49 AM

Never had anticipation been hanging in the air so thick. The sold-out crowd searched the stage for signs of movement. Tickets to the Death Cab for Cutie with OK Go show at the Pageant had been hard to track down, but it was all over now. Early-birds everywhere were all smiles, waiting.

OK Go took the stage, wearing a colorful array of caps, vests and ties, and they drummed right into “Television Television.” The crowd began to swarm, pushing closer to the amps and elbowing their way towards singer Damian Kulash. Fulfilling the traditional front man role of handsome mystery with a knack for guitar, Kulash was a clear leader-- but the ultimate team player as well. The power pop parade began again with “Don’t Ask Me”, rife with melodic bounce and young thoughts. The OK GO quartet works excellently together, and with a nod, glance and a group jump they found their crowd, building on its original excitement and going crazy when the familiar chords of “Here it Goes Again” rang out into the air.

Soon came the expected introductions by Damian, which were anything but normal: “Any chemistry or med. students? Well, I am in love with the wonders of pharmacology, this morning I couldn’t speak and now I can almost sing. Sorry, St. Louis, I’m always sick for St. Louis…” and then a scream came from the back… “I love you!” Damian decided to add onto that… “Well before you say that, I think you should know that I smell bad and I’m kind of an asshole. I think you should get to know me a little better…this is for the old stodgy crowd in the back…hi old stodgy crowd!”

After waving, Kulash dove into one of Electronic Light Orchestra’s classics, “Don’t Bring Me Down,” a huge hit back in the 70’s. Carrying on, OK Go thankfully got to play almost all of their recorded songs, following ELO with the more subdued, “No Sign of Life” and “A Million Ways”.

Ok Go may be a little retro, and even a little classic rock at times, but they definitely have put their own spin on the pop rock scene. Their style lets each instrument breathe through the overlay of lyrics, there is no problem distinguishing the rhythmic keyboards and edgy harmonies, which are often the essentials of each song. The clear chords are similarly separated from the throaty vocals and the slightly isolated drums provide just enough heartbeat to power the dance vibe that fuels the whole system.

The band really stirred the crowd again when they crashed into another recognizable tune, “Get Over It!” In the momentary silence after the song had spun out, a pair of panties soared onto the stage…landing neatly next to guitarist Andy Ross. A shocked Damian commented, “Wow you just got underpants… what do they say? I heart Ronnie? … What?” Ronnie laughed and kept on playing.

As the night progressed, Kulash looked more and more like a young Mick Jagger, prancing around the stage, toying with his mic. Again Damian addressed the crowd, but this time to ask a favor, “I know you are all drug-loving people, but I’m going to ask you to keep your lighters at bay and take our your cameras or cell phones or whatever else you’ve got and hold it up for this next song.” The darkness became suddenly spotted with lights; Kulash started into, “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet” a definite change up from dance mode. The sea of LED’s was amazing to behold and be a part of. Turning back up the volume and the tempo, “You’re So Damn Hot” came next, complete with handclaps in the gaps. Another favorite “Do What You Want” and the classically teenagerish anthem “A Good Idea at the Time” both employed various woo hoos and nah nah nahs making the songs even more jumpy and infectious. The set came to a close all too fast, but Damian reappeared and explained what would happen next as everything began to shift behind him to set up for Death Cab.

“While we’ve got you captive here, we thought we would further entertain you, because that’s what we love to do”. Then he stepped back into a formation, each member of OK Go arranged, standing stock still until the music to “A Million Ways” started up. A ridiculously amazing dance routine followed, lead by official lip-syncher/bassist Tim Nordwind. Tim mouthed each word with lots of expression as those dancing around him remained completely serious, even as they did pirouettes and funky pelvic moves. The dance was shamelessly silly, perfectly coordinated and performed with the ultimate confidence. The audience watched move after move in a fit of laughter, exploding into huge applause as OK Go ended in pyramid form and took a bow. The dance was a perfect conclusion to how OK Go ran their show, with lots of room for laughing and jam-packed with music that was sunshiny, but still smart.

When Death Cab For Cutie walked on and lead singer and lyricist Ben Gibbard said a simple “Hello” into the mic, excitement seemed to swell. Everyone prepared for the ever-accessible music that was sure to follow. Those unique Death Cab traits that made you swoon with understanding and appreciation came at long last. Every member seemed sweet to the core; gracious, and humble as they conducted their show quietly and purposefully. Since you just don’t mosh or jump to Death Cab, many in the crowd seemed lost, but they soon channeled their efforts into singing every word, giving each piece a hollow echo, helping it linger even when ending.

With Death Cab music, meaning seems to seep into every word, always evoking an array of feelings from the listener. There is room for every emotion, the music is a slow melt of impulses and observations put into words that are poetic and yet very easy to comprehend. Gibbard’s steady energy never faded and they played just about everything they had, completely delighting their fans. Starting off with “Title and Registration” they paved their way towards the obviously popular songs with lesser-known but equally captivating tracks from albums Plans, Transatlanticism and We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. As a whole, the set was serene, dishing out doses of sedating melody, calming the already mellow crowd. It was at points a collective depression and at others a stream of uplifting phrases and floating notes. It was beauty by drip with a surprising up-tempo number thrown in every once in a while. “Soul Meets Body” was extremely satisfying as was the universally loved “Crooked Teeth.” Sometimes Gibbard would trade his guitar for the piano, and lit only by white light, formed a silhouette bent over the keys in concentration. Death Cab even dedicated a song to Ok Go, “We Looked Like Giants,” a chasing serenade with an instrumental break that held all silently watching. The slow and soft “Company Calls Epilogue” and “Brothers on a Hotel Bed” were sung on a stage doused in blue light. The release of each line eased anxiety out of all observing. “Marching Bands of Manhattan” was drug induced sleep, sweeping like a blanket over the crowd.

Death Cab’s lyrics were sometimes simple and at other times complex imprints of mystic truth. As the band gave up their guitars, the cheers for an encore began before they got off. When Gibbard got back onstage, he muttered a quiet “Aww shucks…” adding at the last second “A song for you and yours…” before strumming the ballad “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”, which was simple and moving. And lastly, the entire band came out again to sing the Cutie classic, “Sound of Settling.”
The final words? “We are Death Cab for Cutie from Seattle! Thank you so much!” With the pretty poetry still etched in the air, one wonders if all that rain in Seattle finally did some good, creating Death Cab’s melancholy honesty and song of sorrow, that is every so often, laced with bits of hope and optimism.

Press photo of OK Go’s Damian Kulash


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