THE VINES with OK GO at the Opera House, July 10. Tickets: $15. Attendance: 850. Rating: NNN
When they launched into their set with a jumpy, slightly punky pop song driven by cheery electric guitars and sigh-inducing three-part boy harmonies, it seemed easy to dismiss Chicago upstarts OK Go as a forgettable pretty-boy fluff band à la Better than Ezra, coming soon to a teen-movie soundtrack near you. But by the time they reached the third track, an ambient, patched-together song propelled by bursts of feedback and dissonant noise, I was won over.
With adorable, shaggy-headed, tight-T-shirted frontman Damian Kulash (a less attitudinal Julian Casablancas) excitedly playing rock-god guitar, toppling mike stands and playing to his amps, and nerdy bassist Tim Nordwind offering a grounded counterbalance to Kulash's hyper energy, you could tell the dudes had the onstage confidence thing down pat.
On the other hand, all that audience energy could've been mere anticipation for next big things from Down Under, the Vines.
Lead Vine Craig Nicholls is a snarling rocker-boy stereotype, punctuating his scowling delivery with intermittent howls and muttering between-song interludes.
Despite looking haggard from touring, they played a solid set of squalling psych-garage tunes, switching up dreamy Floydish trip-outs with hard-edged rock-outs. The crowd responded by alternately swaying in sync with lighters aloft and crowd-surfing.
The only gaffe was an ill-advised acoustic cover of OutKast's Mrs. Jackson, which they managed to reduce to a whiny Bush-style alt-rock slow dance track. Ugh.