Monday, January 23, 2017

Concert Review: O.A.R. - December 27, 2016

Three words best describe my most recent concert experience with O.A.R.---Robert Fucking Randolph! Yes, he was the surprise guest that came out for the entire encore. It was an extremely delightful treat for me, a belated Christmas gift that filled my heart with joy. Since the very first time I saw him perform with Dave Matthews Band back in 2005, I have been fascinated with Robert Randolph. The man is a genius on the pedal steel and increases the value of any song that he plays live.

General Admission tickets were purchased for this show at the Wellmont Theatre and our arrival was early enough to secure a location close to the stage. We weren’t on the rail, but almost. It was close enough that we could see all the little nuances happening on stage which sometimes is magical. Fortunately I had the week off from my day job, so I knew if the concert ran late it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. I didn’t need to be up at any specific time the next morning.

Taylor Carson opened the show and like most acts that I’ve seen open for O.A.R. over the years, he gave a decent performance. Carson is someone that I will pay more attention to in the future. His set was short and sweet, but strong and powerful. I enjoyed watching him perform and set the stage for what was to come.

The curse of attracting drunks in the General Admission area haunted me once again that evening. During the brief intermission between performers, I noticed a group of people from the Boston area that had come down to see the show. It was obvious which one wasn’t driving as he immediately engaged me in conversation with two fistfuls of beer. He commented that he liked my Deadpool beanie and asked if I had seen the movie. After a few polite nods and smiles from me, his friends pulled him away and steered him back toward their conversation. Ten minutes later he was standing next to me again proclaiming that he liked my hat. Then he asked if I had seen the movie. I chuckled in response and said that “yes, I had seen the movie.” I didn’t add that I had just told him that a few minutes ago. He seemed harmless enough and he wasn’t going to remember most of the night anyway, so I figured why bother?

O.A.R. came out shortly after the second intervention of the Deadpool lover by his friends and the crowd roared. By this time the General Admission was packed and the balcony seats were filled close to capacity. I could tell that it was going to be an exceptional night of music and fun. The band opened the night with “This Town” and the evening began. “About An Hour Ago” followed and being my favorite song in the O.A.R. catalog, I was overjoyed. I sang it back to them at the top of my lungs along with 90 percent of the crowd.

The setlist was a well-crafted blend of classic and newer hits mixed with deep cuts from the early days. As an avid fan of the entire O.A.R. catalog, this was all right by me. I will admit that I was disappointed that no songs from The Rockville LP were performed, but I understand that in a setlist like this, hard cuts need to be made. Highlights of the evening include the aforementioned “About An Hour Ago,” “Black Rock,” “About Mr. Brown” and “I Go Through” one of two new songs from the greatest hits record.

In addition to the core band members and Michael Paris on keyboards and percussion, O.A.R. continued to have Jon Lampley on trumpet for this tour. Lampley stole the spotlight and was the real treat of the evening. Energized in a way that not many performers are, Lampley had the crowd jumping and screaming from the moment he took his place on stage. He was having fun from the opening note of the night until the end of the concert. Dancing, singing, taking trumpet solos, and just being an animated, happy person, his joy was infectious. Every time I looked at him a big grin appeared on my face. That is what performing on stage should be like. Fun for all, but especially for the entertainer.

The main set ended with a blistering cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run.” Marc Roberge asked the crowd to sing it with him if they knew it. Once the opening notes were played, everyone roared. Of course we knew it --- it was Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey! O.A.R.’s rendition of “Born To Run” was fabulous and flawless and I found myself singing it louder than I do at a Springsteen concert. I thought that was going to be the highlight of the entire evening, but I was highly incorrect about that.

As they took the stage for the encore, Roberge talked about how hard it is to have real friends in the music business. He mentioned how O.A.R. was blessed to be friends with the man they were bringing out onstage. They then introduced Mr. Robert Randolph and I went berserk (for all the reasons I stated earlier). The band kicked into “Anyway” with Randolph’s signature pedal steel slide guitar added into the mix and it was just a treat for the ears. An extended jam was performed and Randolph even got to take a solo. It was magnificent.

A cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Fool In The Rain” followed and that too was phenomenal. I was mesmerized and knew that I could sit and watch this band perform with Robert Randolph all night long. I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to watch the master continue to play. Fortunately, the band obliged with one more song---their signature and fan favorite---“That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker.”

Complete with cards being tossed into the air by audience members, “Poker” was given a grand performance. And while I have grown tired of this song over the years, it is never dull when performed live. Add Robert Randolph to the mix and the song was taken to new heights.

Once again O.A.R. put on an exceptional show proving they still have what it takes for a live performance. And while I am hopeful that they will head back to the studio to record a new album I would also welcome the opportunity to see them over the summer. Perhaps the music Gods will be generous and give me both.

This Town
About An Hour Ago
On Top The Cage
Black Rock
Dangerous Connection
Lay Down
Right On Time
Dareh Meyod
Hold On True
Hey Girl
Heavy Heart
About Mr. Brown
I Go Through
City On Down (First Half)
Delicate Few (Second Half)
Born To Run
Fool In The Rain
That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker

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