Concert review: O.A.R (...of a revolution) at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater (with photos)

All were decked out in jeans and casual tees that fit the laid-back vibe they offer with their reggae-rooted sound, but I couldn’t 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 Jesse’s rocked it out though to fan favorites like “Hey Girl” (Soul’s 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 couldn’t have been any more enjoyable to watch with his exploding animation. They were both feeding off of the crowd’s 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 Jack’s 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 that’s 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:


Words by CL Music Intern Mary Small; photos by Jeff O'Kelley.

After finishing up “On Top the Cage,” from their second album, Soul’s Aflame (2000), O.A.R. singer/guitarist Marc Roberge confessed that the band was reluctant to start touring again after taking some time off.

“We haven’t played a show in a couple of weeks,” explained Roberge [pictured left]. “But then you get a crowd like this, you are like ‘Oh my God, this is the best job in the world!’ Nothing can replace that.”

Ruth Eckerd Hall was was filled with all types of people this past Wednesday night, from college students to jammin’ grannies, all equipped with a drink in hand and a smile on their faces.

Roberge opened the show solo with an acoustic intro to “Here’s to You,” and when the band joined him and the tempo picked up, so did the energy in the room, the crowd surging from their seats and swaying to the beats.

Roberge was accompanied by his long-time band mates, fun-loving Chris Culos on drums, Benj Gershman on bass guitar, back-up vocalist and guitarist Richard On, and multi-talented instrumentalist Jerry DePizzo on guitar, sax, and snare drum.

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