December 27, 2015
An O.A.R. concert is an event. In the '60s, it would have been referred to as a "happening." The jamband from Rockville, MD has a following that rivals that of Gov't Mule and could, as time marches forward, become similar to the legion of fans who live, eat, drink and breathe the Grateful Dead and everything associated with that band. Much like the Dead, O.A.R.'s fans congregate before shows to talk about the band, trade shows online and feel a certain level of camaraderie while spending entire shows on their feet singing along as the band jams on. As its shows move along, any inhibitions that the audience members may have had are left far behind. An O.A.R. show always evolves into an expression of devotion between fans and band, while people dance with total strangers, respond to lyrical passages within songs with the upcoming verses in an interesting take on call and response interaction.
For the uninitiated. O.A.R. stands for Of A Revolution. The band was formed in 1996 when lead vocalist/guitarist Marc Roberge, drummer Chris Culos, guitarist Richard On and bassist Benj Gershman met while attending high school. The four band members then went to Ohio State University where they met saxophonist/guitarist Jerry DePizzo. As of the end of 2015, the band had released eight studio albums. Its latest, The Rockville LP
, (Vanguard Records) dropped in June 2014. During its career, the band has also released five albums documenting its extensive touring schedule.
An O.A.R. show is known for its constants and for its surprises. The band will almost always play "Hey Girl" (which six years after their first album, was the first single released by the band), the audience sing-along "Shattered (Turn The Car Around)," "About Mr. Brown," "Peace" (from The Rockville LP
), "Untitled" and a few other stalwarts. On this night in Huntington, NY's the Paramount, in the midst of the Winter 2016 You Pick The Setlist
Tour, the crowd was not disappointed as these songs all made their appearances. The surprises included a stellar cover of local hero, Billy Joel's "Downeaster Alexa" and the band's always fantastic rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Fool In The Rain." "Fool In The Rain" should not have come as a "big" surprise as the band has been performing the song for quite some time, but this was the song's first appearance (and as of this writing its only appearance) on this new tour.
Other highlights included: the show's opener "Heaven" (with its fantastic saxophone break), "Night Shift," "Road Outside Columbus" (from 2003's Lave Records release In Between Now and Then
) and the mash-up of "City On Down" and "Delicate Few."
The encores were a mixed band of the unexpected and the expected. "Ran Away to the Top of the World Today" was followed by "Missing Pieces." The finale was a tour de force version of the ever-popular "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker" with its sing-along... "And I said Johnny whatcha doing tonight?
He looked at me with a face full of fright
And I said, how 'bout a revolution?
And he said right.
I say of, you say a
I say revolution, and you say jah
I say of, you say a
I say revolution, and you say jah"
...lyric. Keeping with what has become custom, the Long Island faithful participated in the ritual of throwing decks of cards in the air as the song was played.
The show was an expression of pure joy. The fans danced, jumped and bopped their way around the venue while the band delivered its patented rock and reggae mixed with a splash of ska, a dash of roots rock, a pinch of jazz and a smidgeon of soul. The band fed off the crowd's energy. The horn section shined, the guitar play between Roberge and On was stellar, and the rhythm section of Gershman and Culos kept perfect time while propelling the songs to new heights that can only be reached during live performances.
When the show ended, the crowd headed to the "Merch Stand" to purchase posters that specifically commemorated the evening's performance, CDs, DVDs, caps and, of course, tour t-shirts. As they exited the venue many fans were heard singing "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker." However, the most amazing visual on this evening, by far, was the group of girls seen walking arm- in-arm down the stairs and out the door shouting the... "How many times can I break till I shatter?
Over the line can't define what I'm after
I always turn the car around
Give me a break let me make my own pattern
All that it takes is some time but I'm shattered
I always turn the car around"
...chorus from "Shattered (Turn The Car Around)."
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon