Review by Justin Burkhardt
Saturday night I had the opportunity to review O.A.R (Of A Revolution) again as they brought their Back to Rockville tour to the Sands Steel Stage at Musikfest. It can be tough sometimes when a group performs in an area again so soon (they were here in late November), but O.A.R exceeded my expectations and were even better than last time. You can find my previous review of O.A.R here as this review will play off of that first a one a bit.
I’d also like to point out again that O.A.R knocked it out of the park with their choice of opening acts. First was Brynn Elliot. My biggest disappointment at the concert was not seeing more of her set as I was not there in time and she definitely started before the listed time of 6:15 on the ticket. What I did see however was a very talented singer who was very comfortable with being on such a big stage. She did a killer cover of the Dolly Parton masterpiece “Jolene”, and it was my 2nd favorite cover of the song I’ve ever heard (Jack White is #1). I’d like to see an extended solo set from her at some point.
The main opening act was Allen Stone and he was in one simply word, fantastic. Previously OAR had Andy Grammer (who I loved before he blew up with his “Honey, I’m Good.” song, and this Allen Stone opening act choice was just as good if not better. Stone had a large, talented and energetic band with him (I counted 7 people). Stone has been buzzing in the music industry for a few years now now, but this was the first time I’ve been able to see him in person, and I’m glad I finally did. Stone is a VERY talented soulful singer/songwriter with a vintage sound (think a more musically talented/hippy/James Morrison version of Mayer Hawthorne) and he really is on his way to being a huge star with a long career. I don’t know if the people at ArtsQuest read these reviews or not, but if you see this PLEASE bring back Allen Stone (& Brynn Elliot) to do solo shows either at the café or Levitt. Thanks!
Now on to O.A.R., the band performed 2 hours and 22 songs for a nice size crowd (the bleachers weren’t too full, but the rest of the crowd was). Of those 22 songs, 9 songs were different from the last time they were here (including an awesome version of “This Town”; still haven’t heard one of my favorite song of theirs “Lay Down” yet live though”). I don’t know if O.A.R did this on purpose but it was really nice hearing 9 “different” songs this time while still hearing a lot of their biggest hits. The band played all their songs with the energy and passion you should expect from them at this point. Lead singer Marc Roberge didn’t speak to the audience for the first hour finally saying, “I just realized I haven’t even said Hi yet. We just get so hyped to play for you all, and I mean no disrespect”. I’ve applauded previous acts for engaging the audience, and attacked some for not, but when I see a band like O.A.R I don’t really want or expect them to spend a lot of time talking, I expect them to spent most of their time jamming and that’s ok!
Two things I’d like to point out that were different to me from my last review of the band. While I said previously that O.A.R. excels when they let their musicians shine during various times throughout their set, this was even more the case at this concert. All the band members had their time to shine again, be it a guitar solo during their hit “Shattered” or sax solo during their hit “Wonderful Day”, but one person stood out more to me this time around. Trumpeter Jon Lampley was incredible. I don’t remember him being there in November and if he was I’m sorry, but his energy and playing stood out all night long (especially during the song “Hey Girl”). He also provided addition vocals at times, but it was his energy and his trumpet that made him stand out. He also battled it out at times on stage with his fellow brass partner, the talented Saxophonist Jerry DePizzo, and it was a joy to watch. Their brass section, which also included an appearance during the night from Chris Ott on trombone, was great all night long.
The second thing that stood out to me is the song “Peace”. I really enjoy this song the more I hear it and it just feels to me that Marc Roberge really puts his all into it when he performs it. You can tell the song means a lot to him and it’s a beautiful song that’s really starting to become one of my favorites.
The concert had no encore, but the “end” felt like when O.A.R brought Allen Stone and his band on stage for an incredible cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”. Otis is one of my favorite voices of all-time in music and I don’t use the term incredible lightly here. The song was executed to near perfection and it was a great choice to bring Allen on stage for it. While he’s on tour with OAR he should share the stage with them every night for a song. The concert ended with OAR’s signature “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker”. It’ll never get old seeing how much fans still love this song and them throwing playing cards in the air during it. There was no encore, and while that was mildly disappointing, “Hard to Handle” and “Poker” felt like an encore and with good concerts (and this was one of them) you don’t necessarily need an encore.
What you should expect from a concert from a band in the genre like OAR is to see some talented musicians playing really good some good tunes. I saw the Dave Matthews Band a few weeks ago in concert, and I walked away disappointed, not in their musical abilities, but their set-list choice. I’ve seen two OAR concerts in the past year and never left disappointed in their song selection as a whole. For a clear summer Musikfest night, OAR was a perfect fit and a really good time.