On Friday, December 30th, Rockville, MD’s O.A.R. (an abbreviation for the band's full name, Of A Revolution) took the stage at Huntington, Long Island's The Paramount and immediately launched into a stellar version of "Love And Memories" from 2005's Lava Records Release Stories Of A Stranger. Almost immediately as the last notes of "Love And Memories" faded, O.A.R.'s frontman Marc Roberge along with guitarist Richard On, drummer Chris Culos, bassist Benj Gershman and Jerry DePizzo on saxophone were already unleashing "Heaven" upon the adoring crowd. The Paramount is a mostly standing venue with a balcony surrounding the main area and a mezzanine in the rear. Those lucky enough to score seats were on their feet boogieing in the aisles.
The demographics of the audience members spanned the gamut from under-aged teens to older, dedicated and hardcore fans who have been devotees since the '90s. Each segment of the band’s fan base was treated to the show that they came to hear. O.A.R. delivered a lengthy performance, peppering its set list with songs from their entire cannon including "Road Outside Columbus" (from 2003's Lave Records release In Between Now and Then), "Hey Girl," "Caroline The Wrecking Ball," "Night Shift," "Conquering Fools" and "Shattered (Turn the Car Around)."
An O.A.R. concert is an event. In the '60s, it might have been referred to as a happening. The band 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. 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. 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.
The band was formed in 1996 when Roberge, Culos, On and Gershman met while attending high school. The four continued their friendship at Ohio State University where they met DePizzo. As of the end of 2016, the band had released eight studio albums a slew of officially released live albums (five!) and its most recent release, a greatest hits collection called XX (Vanguard Records) released in August 2016.
As the members of the faithful danced, jumped, juked and shimmied across the dance floor and in their seats, O.A.R. mixed their reggae inspired songs with their more traditional rock songs. O.A.R. is known to some as being reggae and ska influenced; that really isn’t the case. It is true that their sound incorporates some roots rock with a touch ska and a dash of reggae, however, the same can be said for many bands that get characterized as fitting into any number of different genres. In addition, some have wrongly slotted the band into the jamband category, and while many of the songs checked-in at well over five minutes in length, because of the strong lyrical content and amazingly tight performances (both audio and visual), there was never any feeling that the band was jamming for jamming’s sake. Each member of the band shined.
An O.A.R. show is known for its constants and for its surprises. The band will almost always play "Hey Girl," the audience sing-along "Shattered (Turn The Car Around)," "Heaven" (with its amazing saxophone break), "Peace" (from The Rockville LP) and a few other stalwarts. On this night in Huntington, NY's the Paramount, in the midst of the Winter 2016 Tour in support of the greatest hits album, the crowd was not disappointed as these songs all made their appearances. The evening's surprise was a note-perfect cover of local hero, Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant." Other highlights included: "City On Down," "Get Away" and "About An Hour ago."
As always, the band's finale featured "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. Following "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker," the band punctuated its performance with "Missing Pieces."
As the last notes faded into the rafters, the crowd beat a hasty retreat for some retail therapy to gobble-up T-Shirts, CDs, DVDs, caps and the like. As they made their way to the concession stand, many audience members were heard exclaiming that the concert was so good, that in addition to their traditional merchandise they were going to buy the signed setlist and soundboard combo that O.A.R. offers for purchase at every show. Additionally, O.A.R. sells soundboard mp3 and FLAC recordings of most of its shows for the affordable price of $9.99 at www.liveoar.com. This show is sure to be a huge seller. It was that good!
The show was an expression of pure joy. The band fed off the crowd's energy. The crowd fed off the band'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. See them wherever and whenever possible.
Photographs By Christine Connallon
Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon