O.A.R. is kind of a funny band; I always assume that they are more mainstream than they actually are. When I mentioned that I was going to see them last Saturday, the reaction was split – half the people were jealous and half the people had no idea who I was talking about. I would have expected that reaction six years ago when I was first introduced to the band by a friend, but now that they’ve had a few songs that have been on the radio – not just pop radio, but some more adult contemporary stations as well – I am surprised that they don’t have more name recognition. I’m guessing people are familiar with their songs, but just don’t know the name of the band. If you’ve heard this song (which was all over the radio)
then you know O.A.R.
The last time I saw the band live was 2007 at Madison Square Garden; we were fortunate enough to be at the show that was then released as a live album and a concert film. It was a really great show and part of the reason I hadn’t seen them again live was that I didn’t know that a second concert experience would be able to live up to the MSG show. The other contributing factor was a difficulty in finding someone to go with me; I’d mention I wanted to go to the show, but no one ever expressed interest in accompanying me. I’ve had plenty of chances to see them again – O.A.R. makes regular stops in Saratoga Springs most summer – but it just never found my way to see them. But this summer I had the opportunity to get free tickets in the pavilion (as opposed to sitting on the lawn) and I decided that was a sign that it was time to see O.A.R. again. The promise of free tickets also made it easier to find a companion (who was even willing to drive!), so on Saturday I was Saratoga bound.
One thing that stands out about O.A.R. shows is that the crowd skews young – very young. As in, people were probably wondering why “someone’s mom” (a.k.a. me) was at the show. We were a good 15-20 years older than the majority of the audience. Check out the “Seen” gallery on the local newspaper’s website if you need proof. I noticed this same phenomena at the MSG show as well, where we felt a little more like chaperones than concertgoers. The kids at the MSG show were a little more out of hand – someone threw up one section over from us before the show even started – but the kids at SPAC, while slightly intoxicated (despite being underage), were very well behaved from what I saw. And their youthful exuberance was kind of contagious; at a lot of the shows I’ve been to recently, people just stay in their seats and listen to the music. It was nice to see people get up and dance with the music and we even joined in (though I’m guessing their legs didn’t hurt as much as mine did the next day).
O.A.R. was just as fun and energized as I remembered them to be; once they took the stage it was a non-stop jam. I think it was 30-40 minutes into their set before lead singer Marc Roberge even addressed the audience. There was no unnecessary chit chat or pandering to the crowd; they just played song after song at full intensity. They did a great job of mixing in songs from all the different points of their 15 year career. Their songs are generally very upbeat, even the ones that have sad lyrics, and the crowd was feeding off the energy of the band. O.A.R. seemed to be having a fantastic time on stage, especially the horn section. Those guys were just fun to watch; they were given ample examples to shine, especially the saxophonist. But when they weren’t playing, they were dancing and clapping and generally looked like there was no place in the world that they would rather be. It’s nice to see people who love doing what they do and their joy was definitely infectious.
I’m no musician – ask my 4th grade violin instructor – but the band sounded amazing and cohesive. O.A.R. doesn’t use any pyro or other special effects; their stage has a very minimalist look to it. I enjoyed that. Though all the extras definitely can enhance a show, they can also be used as a distraction. O.A.R. was the show and they were more than enough to keep the crowd entertained and happy throughout their 2.5 hour set. You read that right – 2.5 hours. We left the show exhausted, but happy.
Some other quick thoughts:
- I had my first doughboy, a Saratoga Springs specialty, in ten years while at the show and I’m glad that they lived up to my memories. They were just as ooey and gooey as I remembered and really are pretty phenomenal after a few beers. Now I’m craving another one.
- We arrived at the concert late since we had spent the day at the Saratoga Race Track, so we didn’t see any of opening band Rebelution’s set. I usually don’t skip the opener – it’s a good way to discover new bands – but we were just having too much fun to leave the track early.
- The few times that there was a lull in the music, the crowd broke into “U.S.A.!!!” chants. Seriously – I can’t even get away from the Olympics at a concert??
- I grew up less than a mile from SPAC – back in the day you used to be able to hear the concerts in my backyard on a clear night – and my high school graduation was held there. I can’t help but laugh to think that I’ve shared a stage with every band that has come through since – or, should I say, they’ve shared the stage with me.
- This was not even close to a sold out show and I’m guessing the iffy weather had something to do with it. The lawn was fairly empty and apparently a lot of people took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade to pavilion seats. Even so, our row was nowhere near full, which gave us plenty of room to kick back and enjoy the show.
All in all, it was a really great show. The person I went with was not a huge O.A.R. fan, but left a convert. A great way to spend a day in Saratoga. If you are not familiar with the band, I’d recommend checking them out. I’m partial to their2005 album Stories of a Stranger, which contains two of my favorite O.A.R. songs, “Love and Memories” and “Lay Down” (though my favorite version of the former is from the Live From Madison Square Garden cd). However, perhaps no song epitomizes the band better than “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker,” a 15 minute song that they typically close their show with. I’d definitely recommend attending an O.A.R. concert, as long as you don’t mind spending the night hanging out with a bunch of whippersnappers.
About Mr. Brown
Old Man Time
Something Coming Over
Woke Up An Uncle
Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes
The Last Time
On Top The Cage
Love and Memories
Hold On True
Black Rockefeller Institute of Government Anyway
I Feel Home
City On Down
That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker