Monday, December 5, 2016

Concert Review: O.A.R. and Phillip Phillips - July 12, 2014

I have been an O.A.R. fan for quite a while. I’ve seen them in concert a number of times. I love their music and always pick up their latest releases as soon as they are available. I am also a big fan of Phillip Phillips, whom my wife turned me on to. I love his music as well and listen to his two albums a lot. So, when the opportunity to see Phillip Phillips open for O.A.R. at PNC Bank Arts Center arrived, I was over the moon. I had never seen Phillip Phillips perform live and I knew how grand an O.A.R. show was. Heading to the venue, I kept thinking how this could be the show of my summer.

Our seats weren’t terrible. We were in the 400 section of the amphitheater, which isn’t bad. If you have an actual seat at the Arts Center, the sight lines and acoustics are decent no matter where you sit. As we settled into our seats, I noticed that a lot of fans were there to see Phillip Phillips. Some didn’t even know who O.A.R. were. That surprised and disappointed me. I’ve always felt that O.A.R. was an exceptional band that hasn’t gotten the attention they deserve. Phillip Phillips is well known from his American Idol days, so he has a lot more recognition behind him, which might be why people were there just for him.

Phillips came out first and opened with “Where We Came From” which put a big smile on my face. It’s a great song and a good choice for an opener. There’s no denying that Philips draws a huge influence from Dave Matthews Band and that was extremely evident in his stage show. Long, drawn out jams, stage movements, and the way he worked the crowd were all taken right from the DMB playbook. To me, that was a very good thing, as I love DMB. To others, like my wife, it wasn’t as much of a treat. It all depends on your musical tastes.

“Gone, Gone, Gone” was performed two songs later and I, along with the majority of the crowd, went nuts. I absolutely love that song. I find it to be one of his finest songs recorded to date. Hearing it live was a real treat to the ears. Phillips is a young, hungry performer winning audiences over one show at a time. On that warm summer night in New Jersey he had the audience up and rocking three songs into his set.

Phillips was touring behind his recently released second album, Behind The Light. As great as his debut record was, his sophomore effort was even better. Behind The Light improved upon all the greatness of this performer and cemented him as a brilliant recording artist. After two albums and one concert performance, I considered myself a huge fan of Phillip Phillips.

Phillips performed a good mix of songs from both of his releases and even included a cover of Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” It was a well done rendition enjoyed by all the fans in attendance. Other notable performances included “Lead On,” “Raging Fire” and show closer “Home.” The last song was particularly amazing as Phillips was really able to work the crowd for a sing along and put his all into the live performance. By the end of the song, the entire Arts Center was on their feet singing back to Phillips. His three mile smile showed just how happy he was to be playing live music.

When his set finished, I was stunned, amazed, and sweating. I knew that I would have to see him perform again and as often as I could. Sadly, I have not had the opportunity to see Phillips live since that night, but I am keeping my eyes open for tour dates.

O.A.R. was supporting a new album, The Rockville LP, which contained some of their finest work in years. This would be my first opportunity to hear the new songs live. I was anxious and excited. Unfortunately, this was not the same sentiment amongst some of the other fans in attendance. After Phillip Phillips finished his set, people were leaving the Arts Center. What was going on? I even overheard one woman state “Wait, there’s another band coming on? Why?” That shocked me. Was Phillips that good, or was O.A.R. that unknown? Either way, it was disappointing to watch people leave before O.A.R. took the stage. Ultimately, it was their loss, but it also started to show that O.A.R. did not have the staying power I thought. In 2015 they would perform to a half empty Arts Center and in 2016 they didn’t perform the Arts Center at all.

Being the professionals they are, O.A.R. came out and tore up the stage from the opening number, “One Shot.” The band always mixes up their sets from one night to the next, so the audience never knows what to expect. On this evening we were treated to some exceptional classics, brilliant new music, and a couple of grand covers. “Love and Memories,” and “Dareh Meyod” followed the opening number and I just knew it was going to be a rewarding evening.

The first new song followed, “Two Hands Up,” and it was magnificent. It was every bit as good live as I had hoped it would be. The band was tighter than ever and the new songs resonated. It was obvious that O.A.R. enjoyed playing them and those that stayed were well versed in the new material (myself included). There were plenty of sing-alongs on the new material, which made me smile.

A rarely performed gem was pulled out on that evening. The band played “The Fallout” which caused me to scream with jubilance. “The Fallout” is one of my favorite O.A.R. songs and to see it live covered my body with chills of excitement. The live version was breathtaking and one of my favorite moments at an O.A.R. concert.

The always played “That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker” was performed to the delight of the crowd. I personally think that it’s time to hang this song up for a while, or move it to a different spot in the setlist, but 99% of O.A.R. fans would probably disagree with me. The night ended on two covers: “No Woman, No Cry” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And while I am not a fan of ending your concert on a cover song, O.A.R. seems to do it well. This night was no exception. Everyone came out for the last song, including Phillip Phillips and to see both bands on stage for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Marc Roberge and Phillip Phillips trading verses was a moment in my concert history that will stay with me for a long, long time. It was a terrific ending to a terrific summer night of magnificent music and it made me yearn for the opportunity when I could see either of those bands again.

Phillip Phillips Setlist
Where We Came From
Unpack Your Heart
Gone, Gone, Gone
Man On The Moon
Get Up Get Down
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Lead On
Raging Fire
Fool For You

O.A.R. Setlist
One Shot
Love And Memories
Dareh Meyod
Two Hands Up
Shattered (Turn The Car Around)
Wonderful Day
The Fallout
Favorite Song
City On Down
We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off
Nasim Joon
Hey Girl
That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker
No Woman No Cry
While My Guitar Gently Weeps

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