O.A.R. You Pick The Set Tour

Sunday, December 27th 2015

ARTIST BIO

Classic American author Thomas Wolfe famously stated “you can’t go home again,”but don’t tell that to the members of O.A.R. On their eighth studio album, THE ROCKVILLE LP, the shape-shifting rock band found that returning home triggered a journey of creative renewal and inspiration.

“This isn’t about us going back to our musical roots per se,”says lead singer Marc Roberge, who founded O.A.R. in 1996 with his Rockville, Md. high school classmates, drummer Chris Culos, guitarist Richard On, and bassist Benj Gershman (saxophonist Jerry DePizzo joined while the group was at Ohio State University). “It’s about us getting inspired by the place we came from. We’d drive the same roads, visit the old haunts, spend time with our people.  Rockville was the catalyst then, and it’s the catalyst now.”

For the first time in a while, the band found that visiting their Maryland hometown gave them a sense of peace. For years, they had been pushing themselves to reach new levels of success, searching for their place in the world. Plus, turbulent times within their personal lives had led them to a slightly disconnected state.“I went home to Maryland many times while making this album and based these songs on all the familiar feelings that Rockville gave me,”Roberge says. “I tried to focus in on the simple things that always made this band so creative and driven. For everyone in the band, this was a restart. We’ve been hanging out, enjoying life, letting things go…The whole album is about a reboot.”

That sense of renewal is evident on the first single, the deep, yearning “Peace.”“As we were writing it, I felt the weight of three years lift off my shoulders,”Roberge says. “We wrote it about getting back to that even playing field after you go through turbulent times.  It’s about what I see people going through all around me, everyone deserves second, third, fourth chances.”

Roberge wrote “Peace”with Blair Daly and Nashville-based producer Nathan Chapman, best known for his work with Taylor Swift, after Roberge introduced himself to Chapman at an event in Los Angeles. The two got along so well that, in addition to “Peace,”their writing sessions yielded three other songs: “Favorite Song,”“Two Hands Up”and “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off.”Chapman produced “Favorite Song”and “Two Hands Up,”while Gregg Wattenberg, who co-wrote O.A.R.’s No. 1 smash, “Shattered (Turn the Car Around),”produced “Peace.”Chapman and Wattenberg shared production duties on “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off.”With those four tracks serving as the foundation for the album and as a boost to the band’s confidence, Roberge produced the rest of the tracks on THE ROCKVILLE LPincluding a co-production with Jerry DePizzo on “The Element.”“We felt like we were on to something with an overwhelming freedom to chase down some more songs,”Roberge says.

THE ROCKVILLE LP, which was recorded in Nashville, Bethesda, Md., and Brooklyn, N.Y., features some of O.A.R.’s most diverse, intricate songs to date. Bold horn arrangements weave in and out of several of the tunes, including “Irish Rose”sequel and DePizzo showcase, the jangly, story song, “Caroline the Wrecking Ball,”as well as the ambitious “The Architect,”a song adored by longtime fans, but one O.A.R. had never committed to an album before.

Pure joy and light-heartedness infuse album opener, the spiky infectious anthem, “Two Hands Up,”and the irrepressible reggae-tinged “Favorite Song”in which Roberge cheerfully references dozens of song titles. “We were driving down roads in Nashville and Maryland feeling nostalgic harkening back to the days of endlessly flipping through the radio dial singing loudly to your favorite songs.  This song is an ode to the hit, to recognize the pure joy you can get from a song and some rolled down windows.”

O.A.R. is renowned for its intense, vibrant live show —including selling out Madison Square Garden twice —and the communal feeling it shares with its fans. With each studio album, the band has endeavored to achieve that sense of immediacy. On THE ROCKVILLE LP, “it comes the closest,”Roberge says.”Every live band I know will always want nothing more than to carry their live performance onto the album.  It’s an elusive thing to capture, so I’ll never say we nailed it,”Roberge says. “But I can guarantee we put that same live show energy and passion into each minute of THE ROCKVILLE LP and we can only hope the audience feels that.”

Shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, the skies over Frederik Meijer Gardens opened up for the second time, drenching the sold-out crowd for Monday night’s O.A.R. show. Singer Marc Roberge thanked the crowd for being troupers, adding “Its a fun rain, right?” In honor of the soggy circumstances, the band kicked into a perfectly executed cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain.” The fat raindrops pelting the audience provided an ongoing challenge for Monday night’s show, but the fans’ enthusiasm did not seem to be dampened. O.A.R. is touring in support of its new album, “The Rockville LP,” which was released earlier this month. The record is an intensely personal and contemplative collection of songs inspired by the group’s hometown of Rockville, Md., to which the five group members returned after years of living in different parts of the country. While O.A.R. is sometimes considered part of the jam band world, that’s a designation that has more to do with the band’s reputation for ceaseless touring and less to do with a proclivity for intergalactic improvisational noodling. O.A.R. plays taut reggae-tinged pop songs with soaring, fist-pumping sing-along choruses that talk about matters of the heart. That focus on quotidian drama carries a certain irony, given that the group's name is an acronym for “Of a Revolution,” and at its base it draws its rhythms and cadences from reggae - a form of music deeply rooted in radical resistance to political oppression. But the more personal approach resonates deeply with the band’s fans, whose affection was plain to see. They played a handful of songs from “The Rockville LP,” including “Favorite Song,” “Two Hands Up,” and “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off.” All of them continue to move O.A.R.’s beyond their reggae roots to carve out a more introspective territory. The reggae influence was present, though, on songs like “Night Shift” and “52-50.” However, influence does not always translate to mastery. The band played a technically proficient but soulfully disastrous cover of the Bob Marley composition “Stir it Up.” They played the song without any finesse, treating it like it was a chicken whose neck they were trying to wring. The set was also filled with the band’s anthemic hits, such as “Shattered,” “Heaven,” and “Love and Memories.” For the encore, the band played its new single, “Peace,” before launching into their traditional show-closing number, “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker.” By the end, the audience had dwindled some, but there was still a critical mass dancing away in front of the stage. True, O.A.R.’s music sometimes comes across a bit too slick and formulaic (the great critic Kelefa Sannah once broke the formula down to “Maroon 5 plus Matchbox 20 plus UB40,” which sounds about right). But even if it does feel a bit pro forma, the band has a tightness that comes from extensive live performance, grinding it out night after night, and getting inside each other’s heads. Roberge knows how to work a crowd, and there was a reciprocal devotion. Preceding O.A.R. was 2011 American Idol winner Phillip Phillips for a similarly hook-filled, crowd-pleasing turn. Throughout his 75-minute set, audience members danced, threw their hands in the air, and sang along — particularly to his hit single closer, “Home.” Phillips’ band was solid, dropping James Brown or Red Hot Chili Peppers references in the music effortlessly. His pop fare was accompanied by plenty of bombast, sound and fury. But what did it signify? There was something that felt artificial about it all, as though the songs were written by a focus group. It was like trying to rock out to a really well made hamburger commercial. Show opener LP was greeted by the evening’s only momentary blast of sunshine. Née Laura Pergolizzi, she is perhaps best known as a songwriter, with credits including co-writing Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink to That).” She played a short set featuring songs from her brand new Warner Bros. release “Forever For Now.” Playing ukulele and backed by a 12-string guitar, she showed off a voice that was so big and beautiful and expressive, it was almost frightening. She was authentic and understated, providing a welcome moment of anti-bombast.
Brian J. Bowe
It's hard to imagine a more mainstream rock band than O.A.R., the hugely popular group that came to New York on Saturday night. O.A.R.'s music is a genial blend of straightforward rock and light reggae (or, mathematically: Matchbox Twenty plus Maroon 5 plus UB40). The members exude professionalism, running the band like a small corporation. And Saturday's concert was proof that this approach has worked: O.A.R. sold out Madison Square Garden. But in the topsy-turvy world of major-label rock 'n' roll, O.A.R. looks less like a mainstream act and more like a bunch of scrappy outsiders. The band rose to prominence by following the example of the Grateful Dead, Phish and the Dave Matthews Band, cultivating a rabid audience by playing concerts nonstop and by encouraging fans to share recordings. Rock radio stations have been slow to embrace the group. And while O.A.R.'s recent album, "Stories of a Stranger" (Lava/Atlantic), is its most high-profile release so far, the band is still largely unknown beyond its supersize cult of fans. Of course, Atlantic is trying to change that, trying to integrate this below-the-radar group into the rock 'n' roll mainstream. Should the executives fail, it will be an embarrassment - for Atlantic, not for O.A.R. If major labels can't figure out a way to sell lots of CD's by a band that fills Madison Square Garden, then what on earth can they do? Saturday's show was more proof that O.A.R. is doing something right. The members spent two and a half hours entertaining a high-spirited (should that hyphen be a comma?) crowd of collegiate and pre-collegiate revelers. High-fives, saxophone solos, short-sleeved shirts worn over long-sleeved ones: in this world, none of that stuff ever goes out of style. Although bands like Phish had a reputation for attracting freaky latter-day hippies, the members of O.A.R. realized early on that lots of the people at those jam-band concerts were neither freaky nor hippies. So here's the clever part: O.A.R. is a jam band that doesn't really jam. The songs are relatively short, with digressions kept to a minimum. And although the name stands for Of a Revolution and the lyrics sometimes hint at peace-and-love idealism, there's nothing countercultural about this music. One of the band's best-loved songs is called "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker," and while some fans might hear it as an ode to perseverance ("I'll never fold"), others surely hear it as an ode to crazy poker games. That song came at the end of Saturday night's concert, which was obviously a milestone for the band, as Marc Roberge, the lead singer, kept reminding the audience. "A lot of people said that a band like this couldn't put people in this room and have everyone feeling good," he said, though it wasn't clear what he meant by "a band like this." (O.A.R. is often compared to the much jammier Dave Matthews Band, which played the Garden about a month ago.) Still, you could tell that Mr. Roberge felt proud to be leading a packed arena in the chant from "Poker": "I say Of/You say A/I say Revolution/And you say Jah." Alert readers may have noticed something about that chant: it's dreadful. Why drag Jah into this? Indeed, O.A.R. is at its worst when the band's music is at its reggae-est. Saturday's set also included "Program Director," perhaps the worst song from "Stories of a Stranger," though there's plenty of competition. Mr. Roberge sang, "This one time I flip, call the radio/Man play the record that I been loving so." (Later in the song, he made way for a guest verse from the wildly overpraised Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu.) Perhaps your favorite band is afraid to make a thinly disguised complaint about unsupportive radio D.J.'s while simultaneously adopting a faux-Caribbean accent. This one isn't. The music sounds better when the musicians stay on the mainland. The first single from "Stories of a Stranger" was "Love and Memories," written by Mr. Roberge and the professional hitmaker Glen Ballard. The song has a big guitar riff so addictive that you barely notice when Mr. Roberge sings the line "Love me faster than the Devil." (Apparently Satan isn't into foreplay.) And Saturday's concert also included a singalong version of "Heard the World," a huge and infectious song during which the saxophonist, Jerry DePizzo, used an accessory more rock saxophonists should have: a guitar.
Kelefa Sanneh
So 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. This was my second consecutive summer seeing O.A.R. live. Last July, I attended their show at PNC mainly due to Phillip Phillips being their opening act. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that night that O.A.R. were no joke and definitely deserved more of my musical attention. So when they announced their Back To Rockville tour for this summer, I didn’t hesitate to purchase tickets solely for the reason of witnessing another headline show. This time around, the openers would only be icing on the cake. And icing they surely were. The night started off with Brynn Elliott, a Harvard college student who also happens to be one talented singer-songwriter. Her songs cross genres, as she was accompanied by a full band to back her performances, allowing for more rock tones to pour through and entertain the crowd. Although Elliott had few people in the crowd due to her early performance time, she left everything on the stage. She was committed to her music and committed to the fans who were there to be a part of the experience. And for those few who were in attendance to see Elliott in action, they definitely made the right decision of coming early and clearly enjoyed what they were listening to, as evidenced by the random cheers and applause they offered to the band. It’s worth noting that Elliott closed her set with a song called “Unite”, which was written based on her experiences in college learning about diversity and acceptance. As a college student myself, it was difficult not to be able to relate to Elliott. She is a genuine songwriter, and tracks like these prove her ability to take everyday happenings and transform them into a work of art to share with all. Allen Stone, a soulful musician from Washington, followed Elliott’s footsteps. Not only was he supported by a full band, including Greg Ehrlich (organ), Jason Holt (drums),Steve Watkins (keys), Trevor Larkin (guitar), and Brent Rusinow (bass), Stone also came fully equipped with powerful background singers Dani Elliot and Jessica Childress. With songs like “Voodoo”, “Say So”, “Celebrate Tonight”, and “Upside”, Stone showcased his truly dynamic vocal range, often breaking down the ends of the tracks to allow for impressive vocal runs and well executed falsettos. The set was a family affair, as Stone allowed for every person on stage to get their time in the spotlight, as the rest watched on and cheered for their fellow musician during his/her solo. Each tune was rooted in an R&B style, as Stone’s lead vocals and guitar playing allowed for an increased dose of soul and spirit. All of the band members on stage were full of energy and conveyed their passion for music through their performance, and Stone even requested the audience to participate, encouraging dancing in the crowd and singing along to lyrics. A highlight of the set was a cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”. The song’s notoriety helped push the crowd along, as people slowly realized they knew the words. Stone updated the melody of the 2012 hit, featuring a slower tempo and smoother jazz rhythms. Childress complimented Stone on the track, offering both a female and male perspective to the lyrics. From this point on, the performances were more engaging, as more people started to file into their seats and the atmosphere shifted from dusk to night. After repeatedly voicing his appreciation for the crowd in New Jersey and his desire to make a memory with those in attendance, Stone capped off his time with “Freedom”, the single from his newest album Radius. The crowd was on their feet, singing along to whatever lyrics they could pick up on and embracing everything the self-proclaimed “hippie with soul” had to offer. Promptly at 9 PM, O.A.R. took the stage, starting their set off with “Whatever Happened” and an audience favorite “Two Hands Up”. The latter was recently reworked into an anthem for the 2015 Special Olympics, entitled “Reach Up”, in collaboration with Cody Simpson, Breanna Bogucki, and Madison Tevlin. The set was masterfully balanced, although this time focusing on older tunes as compared to last year. These included “Night Shift”, “If She Only Knew”, “So Moved On”, “About Mr. Brown”, “About An Hour Ago”, and the band’s first single “Hey Girl”. In the beginning of the set, it appeared as though the band, comprised of Marc Roberge (vocals/guitar), Richard On (guitar), Benj Gershman(bass), Chris Culos (percussion), Jerry DePizzo (saxophone/guitar), Mikel Paris(keys/percussion), and Jon Lampley (trumpet), were not entirely feeling the enthusiasm of the crowd, and rightfully so. Out of all of the shows I’ve been to at PNC, the audience was pretty lackluster and attendance was fairly dismal. However, as the night progressed, the Jersey fans proved their devotion to the band and their songs, both old and new. The more popular tracks naturally received more attention and focus from the audience, as hits like “Love And Memories”, “Shattered (Turn The Car Around)”, “This Town”, and my personal favorite “Heaven” created a certain sense of camaraderie between the crowd members. People were dancing with strangers, screaming back lyrics, and creating hand and arm movements to go along with the words. One of the reasons why I love watching O.A.R. live is due to their enhanced musicianship. All of the men on stage work in cohesion with one another, specializing in reggae, rock, and jazz infused improvisation. While all band members were introduced and at some point or another were given solo time, Lampley and DePizzo often are left to experiment on their trumpet and saxophone respectfully. As a musician who spent her entire middle and high school experience attempting to master the clarinet, I can assure you that Lampley and DePizzo’s skills are the real deal. Their runs are chosen to perfectly compliment the melody while still leaving the crowd in awe, as they fully explore the entire range of each of their instruments. They both do a phenomenal job of engaging the audience for a good chunk of time as songs get broken down before they conclude with a final chorus. Considering the common perception that woodwind and brass instruments are ‘boring’, every single person is captivated by their instrumental prowess. Lampley and DePizzo make mastering these instruments the easiest and coolest thing in the world. If I could go back in time and change my mind on which instrument to pursue, it would have been either the saxophone or trumpet after being mesmerized by these talented men who may very well be inspiring a new generation of jazz and classical musicians. The overall set was also balanced with slower and more romantic tunes, such as “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off”, “Peace”, “Place To Hide”, and the newest addition to the songbook “Can’t Take It With You”. It has only been played live a handful of times, allowing for die hard fans to be exposed to never before heard melodies and lyrics and to listen to the next step in the band’s career. The song slowly builds melodically, as Roberge starts simply by playing the acoustic guitar with little assistance from Pulos. After the completion of the first chorus, the full band joins in but still resists from overpowering the lead vocals. With lyrics like “what do we got if we ain’t got someone holding you down at the other end?”, Roberge and the band utilize their dynamic range to shape the performance and generate emotion. DePizzo and Lampley each get a stab at alternating short solos, directly feeding off of one another and allowing for their more legato playing styles to shine through. After the instrumental break, the full band rejoins and Roberge is left to sing the final chorus. By this time, it was obvious to see that the demeanor of the entire band shifted. Roberge often spoke on behalf of his friends and expressed their gratitude, which came across as very genuine and sincere. They seemed more in their natural element as time progressed, perhaps needing that time to feel out the crowd and get a sense of the level of fans that were in attendance. Although small in numbers, from my position it appeared as though the majority of people in the crowd were faithful fans who were committed to the success of O.A.R. and not simply there to hear only their one favorite song played. Towards the end of the set, the band switched things up with a mashup of “City On Down” and “Delicate Few”, playing the first half of the former and the second half of the latter. To the uneducated fan, the mashup was so seamless that it would have sounded like the same song throughout. The set was capped off by a performance of “Get Away”, ensuring that the crowd was at high energy for the unexpected course of events to follow. “This town, this city, this crowd. Stand up on your feet, put your worry down.” After O.A.R. left the stage, people began shouting “one more song”. Little did they know that they were in for a couple of surprises. When the band returned after no time at all, along with all of Allen Stone’s band, they began their encore set with a cover of “Hard ToHandle”. The song, originally sung by Otis Redding, was made popular in 1990 byThe Black Crowes. This struck a nerve with those who remembered the song from the ’90s, as people immediately recognized the tune and were singing back the words from the first beat. Due to the instrumentation on stage, O.A.R. accomplished combining both the jazz and rock versions into one epic cover. On and Larkin were featured in a couple of solo opportunities. After the cover was complete, Roberge requested that the crowd stay where they were because they were going to do one more song and wanted their assistance singing it. He claimed that the audience was “going to love this one”, and of course he was right. After bringing out Stone and Elliott to contribute to the vocals, all of the musicians broke out into a “team effort” to cover “Living On A Prayer” by New Jersey’s own Bon Jovi. The crowd went completely mental, the most crazy they had been all night. This was the first time the song has ever been covered by O.A.R. and it surely did not disappoint. Roberge and Stone alternated lead vocals to create a duet, harmonizing well together during the choruses as Stone took to putting his falsetto to good use. The cover wouldn’t be complete without another electric guitar solo. This time, all four players came to the front of the stage. O.A.R. later tweeted that they “figured a 4 man synchronous guitar solo almost does Richie Sambora justice”. An O.A.R. concert would not be complete without a performance of “That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker”. As the Jersey fans honored the ritual of throwing decks of cards in the air as the song went on, it was clear that it had been one crazy and fun night for all in attendance. For unknown reasons, O.A.R. left either extra speakers or equipment cases on the both sides of the stage. Last year, they instead utilized the extra stage space and allowed On and DePizzo to walk and play solos on these side ramps in order to get closer to the crowd. The equipment made it so really the only people who could see were those further away or those in the center section of the pavilion. And unfortunately for me, I was seated stage left, often making it difficult for me to see On, Culos, and Paris. As a fan, this was a mere nuisance, but as a blogger, this was extremely frustrating. So please excuse my poor quality photographs. The lighting for the show was effective yet simple. The colors added to the overall experience but did not detract from the main point of the concert — the music. Because in reality, that is what O.A.R. is all about. They truly come alive in the live atmosphere and excel at transforming the sound of their songs from the studio to the stage. This is a band comprised of men who have been dreaming of playing their music to fans who truly appreciate them since they were in eighth grade. Men who grew up in Rockville, Maryland and refused to give up on a dream. Now, nearly 20 years since their official formation as a band, O.A.R. has played arenas like Madison Square Garden and, most importantly, has a loyal, passionate, and diverse fan base that stretches generations and exists in full force across the nation. And if that isn’t incredible, then I don’t know what is.
O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) @ The Lawn at White River State Park, Indianapolis on June 29th, 2013 Mid-evening amidst a gray, rainy, and altogether dreary day, hundreds upon hundreds of people gathered into The Lawn at White River State Park for what was about to be a long, eventful night of music, dancing, and alcohol (amongst other traditional concert goodies). Of A Revolution, better known as O.A.R., couldn’t have chosen a better date to play their set, as every day preceding the show had been plagued with overpowering rains (mostly five-minute rain showers, but unforgiving five-minute showers nonetheless). Paired together with openers Allen Stone and Andrew McMahon, members of the all-ages audience could stand confident that their money had certainly not gone to waste in buying these concert tickets. Allen Stone was an immediate crowd pleaser. Known for his smooth, yet powerful R&B vocals, Allen and his band entertained with fantastic stage presence in an assault of funky music and rhythmic dancing; the entire performance was oozing with a 1970’s vibe. It was a fantastic way to get the crowd loosened up from the get-go. People couldn’t help but dance to the music, and the air was full of smoke, laden of carcinogens and euphoria alike. Allen had a smile on his face throughout the entire set, and kept engaged with the crowd in a way that felt genuine and ensured that both parties were having a good time. Following a cover of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?”, the band closed with their song “Satisfaction.” Overall, they were very well-received and put on a great show. The second band was… Less impressive. As soon as they walked onto the stage, Andrew McMahon and his band got right into their set, making no time for introductions. The bunch was an awkward blend of ‘90s grunge and new-wave hipster chic that, despite some common grounds (namely scraggly beards and skinny jeans), didn’t quite work together. Their music was a bit less of a mess, though their poor execution of synthesizers was awkward, to say the least. The set had somewhat of a Coldplay vibe, albeit with a more nasally voice. It’s worth mentioning, though, that McMahon didn’t miss a note. Terrific tonal control. The crowd seemed overall pleased with their performance, though many cringed each time the singer-songwriter stomped on the keys of his Baldwin piano. Halfway through the set, the band switched gears from teen feel-good movie soundtrack to electronic pop-rock; possibly the inspiration behind their mixed bag fashion sense. All sarcasm aside, Andrew McMahon and his backing band gave a decent performance leading to the main act of the night, Of A Revolution. As purple headlights took the stage and the audience began to stir in anticipation, O.A.R. emerged from the sidelines and immediately started their set with Taking On The World Today. A quick spin-around made it clear that the crowd had doubled, if not tripled in size since Stone’s and McMahon’s performances, and from the moment O.A.R. began playing, every single person on the lawn was dancing. Despite their sectioned off location (minus Jerry the multi-talented saxophonist, who moved around from time to time to play guitar), the horn section was incredibly active; the three of them danced with enough energy to match the entire crowd. After playing a few fan favorites, such as Heaven and Night Shift, the band briefly intervened and frontman Marc Roberge thanked the audience for coming to the show, commenting that “We want to feel better than when we came here when we leave.” O.A.R. picked up from their short intermission with “I Will Find You,” a song that built from a solo acoustic performance to an orchestral jam and brought life back into the crowd. The entire set was reminiscent of the 311 and Pepper show that graced White River’s lawn in the summer of 2011; loads of fun and dancing to alternative rock with hints of reggae and ska-punk. One of the highlights of the night was during “That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker,” when the sky turned from a muted blue to a stark white; nearly every member of the audience had been handed a deck of playing cards, all of which were launched into the air at the chorus of the song. Two songs later, the band walked off stage and built up anticipation amongst a roaring crowd for an encore, though everyone quickly quieted down when Roberge reemerged with soft ballad “Peace.” After tears and sweat were wiped away, the atmosphere quickly returned to feel-good as O.A.R. played hit “Love and Memories,” a song seemingly straight out of 10 Things I Hate About You. The final song to close off the night was a cover of the epic and ever-famous Wings song, “Live and Let Die.” As the crowd roared and applauded and the band took a final bow and exited the stage, it was clear that there could have been no better way to kick off the summer – the concert was a success. The Good: All three bands stayed very engaged with the audience and put on fantastic performances that left everybody feeling good about having spent their evening at White River. The Bad: At nearly four and a half hours total, most people who had attended the entire concert were visibly exhausted by the end of the night. It’s also hard not to include McMahon’s piano-stomping in the list of negatives. It’s a Baldwin, for god’s sake.
Hayato Huseman
STERLING HEIGHTS – O.A.R. continued its long summer relationship with the Detroit area on Sunday, June 22, switching from its usual home at the Meadow Brook Music Theatre to the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre for this year’s 93.9 Riverfest show. The jam band, a Michigan favorite despite the members’ tenures at Ohio State University, took the stage to their song “Love and Memories” and the crowd immediately started roaring the lyrics back to them. The group, featuring a wide variety of sounds including winding guitar improvisations, intense drum breaks and wailing saxophone solos, played an 18-song set with fan favorites such as “It’s Alright,” the new single “Peace” and “Shattered.” Near the end of the show, O.A.R. played a cover of Billy Joel’s “Downeaster Alexa” before ending the night with its hit “That Was A Crazy Game.” “American Idol” Phillip Phillips acquitted himself well, too, dancing up to the microphone amid a jam session by the rest of his instrumentalists on the stage, including a small brass section. Phillips played a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and also tipped his hat to Motown with a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” which led into his “Idol” theme, “Home.” Opening Riverfest was LP, a singer/songwriter from New York. LP’s powerful voice and her skill with the ukulele kept fans happy and tuned in to songs from her recently released debut album before wrapping up with the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”
The Steel City may not be home for rock group O.A.R., but their Pittsburgh fans made the band feel right at home Thursday. Originally from Maryland, O.A.R. made a stop in Pittsburgh as part of the Sound of Summer Tour -- appropriately named for the sunny weather, beach balls and friends that filled Stage AE. "This is the view of views," lead vocalist Marc Roberge said looking out at the energetic crowd with Heinz Field as the backdrop. "The crowd in Pittsburgh always treats us right." And that was true once again Thursday night. Mr. Roberge led the band vocally through a set of 24 songs ranging from hits, "Shattered (Turn the Car Around)," to fan favorites "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker" to "Peace," which previewed what's to come for the group on their upcoming album. The fans reacted to the different sounds of the night -- jumping on the faster tempos, rocking out to the instrumental solos and swaying to the slightly slower songs. Throughout, the fans belted the lyrics to all the songs, even during the debut of the song "Peace," when by the end fans were making peace signs when Mr. Roberge made one and caught on to the lyrics. The set list Thursday separated the diehard O.A.R. fans from those who came for the band's couple mainstream hit songs. But the fans who stayed until the end through more than two hours and 24 songs from O.A.R. were the diehards, belting out every single lyric and sometimes even singing the next line before Mr. Roberge got there. And boy was it worth it. O.A.R. brought what Pittsburghers needed after several days of rainy weather -- a night of good music in a summertime atmosphere. Saxophonist Jerry DePizzo's solos were what separated the concert from just a regurgitation of songs on their albums to a night of musical talent. The band got the crowd involved with certain songs, which wasn't totally necessary as the fans were involved from the first song of the night. "This town, this light, this crowd, Stand up on your feet, Put your worry down, Any every one of you all around, Come on y'all let's take this town." O.A.R. definitely took this town and the crowd Thursday night. The first opening act, Allen Stone, fulfilled his purpose of warming up the crowd for Andrew McMahon and O.A.R. He did just that, playing "Celebrate Tonight" and covering Bob Marley's "Is this Love." "I wanna love you, Pittsburgh," he said. "I am honored to be in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh." Formerly of Jack's Mannequin, Mr. McMahon followed with more than 10 songs mostly from his days with Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate before he went solo. He sang a new upbeat, pop song, "Catching Cold," but fans were more receptive to older songs "Dark Blue" and "La La Lie." Fans at the sold-out, outdoor concert got their money's worth with more than four hours of live music from three talented bands that all had a summery flair to them. Those in attendance Thursday heard the "sounds of summer."
Claire Aronson

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