All were decked out in jeans and casual tees that fit the laid-back vibe they offer with their reggae-rooted sound, but I couldnt help but laugh when I realized the three guitarists, including the frontman, were sporting slickedd-back do's ala John Stamos in his Full House days.
The Uncle Jesses rocked it out though to fan favorites like Hey Girl (Souls Afame), Love and Memories from Stories of a Stranger (2005), and college party throwback Crazy Game of Poker from the band's 1997 debut, The Wanderer. Since Roberge is known for playing with the lyrics during intros before songs and interludes in between, it's sometimes difficult to predict what song they are about to segeue into, but once the fans figure it out, the spirited screaming ensues.
When DePizzo graced us with his first sax solo, one of many during the night, it was met with general jaw-dropping surprise. He brings components of jazz into the band's reggae and rock influenced sound, his addition to the mix a key element in O.A.R.'s sound. The band has a lot of heart in their music, but DePizzo introduces soul. He pushed and gave so much air and put so much effort into every note that came through the brass, I was fearful he would pass out -- but he just kept offering more! Throughout the evening, he showed off his skills, picking up a pair of brushes and playing the snare drum for One Day, and trading out his sax for an ax for fan-adored This Town, both from the 2008 album All Sides.
T[image-1]his is not to say that the rest of the band members weren't worthy of praise. Roberge had an incredibly fluid vocal tone that has just enough rasp to add some edge, and Culos' energetic beat-keeping couldnt have been any more enjoyable to watch with his exploding animation. They were both feeding off of the crowds energy. Once Roberge realized the audience was singing louder than he was, he gave a charming smirk and lit up the stage.
After a set that ended with fans consistently cheering O.A.R! for about five minutes, the band returned for the encore, giving us a preview of what to look forward to on their newest album, expected out in 2011, by playing Over and Over, a heart-felt ballad that Roberge claims is his favorite song to sing. It was co-written by Andrew McMahon, the primary singer/songwriter for Something Corporate and Jacks Mannequin.
The climax of the show came when the band launched into City on Down. Some people had left before the encore, which meant more room to dance and brought the energy level to its highest peak of the night. DePizzo started a mild frenzy as he walked the isles of the hall while playing a spirited solo. Since I was situated at the end of my row, it was only natural that I get bulldozed by a crazed fan, who I like to refer to as "Suzy Steamroller."
I went into this show expecting the same band known for endlessly touring college bars, but I was surprised to discover how polished they've become since those early years. They are still the same casual, grassroots group of guys you can consistently relate to, but they have definitely evolved into a multitalented, successful band thats still climbin the ladder.
O.A.R. appropriately closed the show with a message to the thousands of fans who'd showed up at Ruth Eckerd: And in the end my friend, we will all be together again...
More photos by Jeff: