Monday, August 31, 2015

Concert Review: O.A.R. - August 14, 2015

On a gorgeous Friday night in Holmdel, New Jersey, my wife and I saw O.A.R. perform at the PNC Bank Arts Center. One of the first things we noticed upon entering the arena was how quiet it was. When we arrived, the parking lot was not even a quarter full, and entering the arena revealed one of the merchandise booths wasn’t even open. That was a bad omen. It was obvious that the show had not sold well, which was sad. O.A.R. is one of the most incredible live acts I have ever witnessed and I couldn’t understand why tickets had not sold. Granted, the last time we saw them was with Phillip Phillips, so that certainly helped ticket sales, but O.A.R. is a band that can carry the Arts Center on their own, or at least I thought so.

The dismal turnout for the show didn’t dampen our spirits for long. We grabbed our seats and within moments, the first act of the night appeared. Brynn Elliott is a young, talented, singer/songwriter that has a bright future ahead of her. She blew us away and I was so impressed that I am going to purchase her music in the near future. She is comparable to Brandi Carlisle and has equal amount of talent. If everything breaks her way, she will be a household name in a few short years. Brynn Elliott definitely has the skill, now all she needs is a little luck.

Allen Stone was the second opening act, and while some in the crowd were clearly fans, his groove/funk/soul style of music just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything that I would say I enjoyed. I just kind of sat in a daze through his set and kept wondering what O.A.R. would open with and how the half full arena would affect their performance.

Thankfully, O.A.R. is an extremely professional act, and they did not disappoint the fans that were there. The band opened with “Whatever Happened,” one of my favorite O.A.R. tracks and a solid choice for a starter. It got the crowd on their feet and roaring early. I could tell right away that the band was in tight form and that they were going to give us an incredible night.

Unfortunately, we happened to be sitting next to the drunk college crowd that I somehow always seem to attract at O.A.R. and DMB shows. It must be my magnetic personality. This time there were three guys and four girls, one drunker than the next, with the exception of the girl who was clearly the designated driver. And while I applaud them for being responsible and having a sober person available to take them home, I was disappointed in their behavior. They were talking over songs, jumping around and bouncing into my wife and me on several occasions without so much as an apology, and spilling drinks everywhere. Am I crusty old curmudgeon? Perhaps, but I’ve always gone to concerts to appreciate the music, not to get drunk. I can do that somewhere else at a much cheaper rate.

Intoxicated seatmates aside, my wife and I enjoyed O.A.R. And for this show, the band pulled out some deep classics. My favorite O.A.R. song of all, “About An Hour Ago” was performed and sounded amazing. In addition, beloved early favorites such as “Night Shift,” “If Only She Knew,” and “So Moved On” were played to the delight of all in attendance. The band did well to mix in early classics and modern favorites, and it made for one of the best performances I’ve experienced from them.

The usually talkative Marc Roberge was rather quiet that night. Seven songs were performed before he even addressed the crowd. This theme carried throughout the concert, with limited conversation from Roberge. It was apparent that the band was going to let the music do the talking that evening. And the music did talk, and sing, and triumph. O.A.R. gave a gem of a performance and while the crowd was small, it was loud. The roars the band received indicated just how beloved they are for those that came to see them.

The real treat came in the encore. After performing a ripping cover of “Hard To Handle,” I expected to hear “Crazy Game Of Poker” to end the night. Instead, my mind was blown when the opening notes of a much beloved Bon Jovi track filled the arena. By the time the drumbeat kicked in, O.A.R. and all the members of both opening acts were onstage giving a rousing rendition of “Livin’ On A Prayer.” The crowd screamed their delight and we all sung word for word at the top of our lungs. It was magnificent!

And of course, there was one more song to go. “That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker” closed the show (as it usually does) and everyone went home happy. “Poker” is the band’s signature song, and it never gets old. No matter how many times I hear it, I will always love that song.

What the future holds for O.A.R. at PNC remains to be seen. They may need to take a year off (as they have done in the past) and skip Holmdel next summer. Personally, I would be disappointed, but I would also understand. The only other solution is to get another name act to open for them, ala Phillip Phillips. If they do come around next summer, count me in. And if they don’t hit New Jersey, then I may just have to make a road trip.

Whatever Happened
Two Hands Up
Night Shift
Love And Memories
If Only She Knew
So Moved On
About An Hour Ago
We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off
Shattered (Turn The Car Around)
Can’t Take It With You
Hey Girl
About Mr. Brown
Place To Hide
City On Down (first half) 
Delicate Few  (second half)
This Town
Get Away
Hard To Handle (Otis Redding Cover)
Livin’ On A Prayer (Bon Jovi Cover)
That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker

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