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Live Review/Photos: Oh My God – Live in Champaign, IL 10/09/2009

Photos by Marc Hansen

To the untrained eye, Oh My God singer Billy O’Neill seems like everything your parents tried to shield you from when you were young. His brash, violent, feral onstage persona looks more like a vision from a bad acid trip than soulful crooner. It’s that kind of juxtaposition that defines the Oh My God live show.

Subtlety is simply not part of the Oh My God live show. O’Neill may attract the most attention, but the driving force behind the sound is keyboardist Ig. The electric-shriek emanating from his instrument is an unlikely counterpoint to the shockingly pretty sound of O’Neill’s Michael Stipe-esque vocals. There’s perhaps no more earnest singer working today. O’Neill infuses each song with a different emotion, from the intentionally half-hearted delivery on the word ‘boring’ during the chorus “The Unbearable Pageant” to the raging confusion of “Fools Want Noise.”

One of my main concerns going into the show was how the new band members were going to work with the band. Very well, it turns out; these certainly aren’t ‘rent-a-musicians.’ The onstage camaraderie plays like the kind developed over years, not mere months. New guitarist and vocalist Zach Verdoorn sounds great backing O’Neill, and new drummer Danny Yost keeps a steady beat.

Oh My God is on tour again behind new album, The Night Undoes The Work Of The Day. About a third of the show is made up of new material; more than any other individual Oh My God album. New songs that felt somewhat limp on record come to life in this setting. The rhythm of “My Own Adventure” sounds a lot more danceable live. “Baby There’s Nothing Wrong (You Just Gotta Go To Work)” comes off better in this setting as well, seething with a wrath that was more understated on the album. Sounds pretty raging, yet those are only the ‘lighter’ songs.

The band hit top gear about midway through the set. Upon introducing “Facewash,” O’Neill states, “Here’s a question all of you have the same answer to.” It’s not so much the power as the attacking of social taboos that beat the audience into submission. The frontman addresses topics such as the US’s continued presence in Iraq. However, O’Neill serves these issues with a sense of humor. He possesses a unique ability to not take himself so seriously, an ability highlighted by his pink short-shorts worn over bright red pants. Every attack on your sensibilities is delivered with a wink and smirk. Behind his juvenile behavior belies intelligence, which comes through best on the stage banter.

I’ve been to a lot of shows in the last several months, and the ones that stand out to me in hindsight are the ones that brought the audience into the performance, which is precisely what Oh My God performance accomplished. One cannot simply observe the band play, rather they are dragged into the show willingly or otherwise.

Anthony Gravino
Curb Service

• The Unbearable Pageant
• Fools Want Noise
• Action!
• Two-Hand Touch
• Baby There’s Nothin’ Wrong (You Just Gotta Go To Work)
• My Own Adventure
• Bring Yourself
• Torture
• Facewash
• Liberal
• My Life Is A Warfare
• Get Steady
• One Thing Leads To Another

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