O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) – Saratoga Performing Arts Center 7/28/12

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.

The enthusiastic horn section

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.

Setlist

About Mr. Brown

Program Director

Old Man Time

Something Coming Over

Shattered

Woke Up An Uncle

Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes

Revisited

The Last Time

The Strager

Hey Girl

On Top The Cage

Night Shift

Love and Memories

Mr. Moon

Hold On True

Heaven

Conquering Fools

Black Rockefeller Institute of Government Anyway

I Feel Home

War Song

City On Down

Delicate Few

Encore

Irish Rose

That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker

The Watch – A Review

Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is much of a reason to watch The Watch. This is definitely a case of all the best parts of the movie being in the trailer, which is a shame for a movie with so much comedic potential.

In a lot of ways, I think The Watch just has really bad luck. This movie was originally called Neighborhood Watch and featured a different ad campaign. This was the original image used on the posters in promotion of the film:

And this was this was the original trailer:

 

And then the tragic Trayvon Martin shooting happened in Florida.

Suddenly a movie named Neighborhood Watch featuring a poster with a shadowy black figure on a bullet ridden sign was no longer appropriate. The footage of Jonah Hill pretending to shoot people from the neighborhood patrol call, while pretty innocuous before the incident, now took on a whole new meaning. If the movie was going to be marketable, they had to distance themselves from any similarities to the Martin shooting. The name of the film was changed to The Watch and a whole new ad campaign was launched.

However, in the studio’s effort to distinguish the movie from real life, they wound up giving away too much of the plot. While The Watch is about a group of suburban guys who form a neighborhood watch after a murder in the community, they soon discover that the perpetrators they are looking for are aliens, not humans. While this makes clear that the movie is very different from the shooting in Florida, it also eliminates the element of surprise in the movie. The presence of aliens could have been a fun reveal – the guys in the watch don’t immediately figure out that extra-terrestrials are involved – but instead the whole thing seems kind of anticlimactic. I understand why the studio did what they did, but it unfortunately undercut the plot of the movie.

The Watch could have overcome this issue if it had just been funnier. It’s hard to say what the studio would have done if the Martin shooting hadn’t derailed their campaign, but in the process of giving away major plot points they also revealed most of the big laughs of the movie. There were still a few humorous moments that were unexpected, but for the most part I felt like I’d seen everything already. I had higher expectations of what this movie comedically was capable of; I like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill separately, so putting them all together seemed like a comedy dream team. They give it their all and certainly elevate the material in some places, but they can only do so much. The jokes just aren’t there. Some of the dialogue is pretty dreadful; I don’t expect Shakespeare, but some of the lines are pretty clunky, which is particularly surprising because Seth Rogen co-wrote it and I’ve liked his previous scripts (Pineapple Express, Superbad). It’s not a good sign when I was bored through large segments of the film. Even worse, there were also long stretches where I just didn’t laugh. They wasted all the really good material in the trailers and there weren’t enough other laughs in the film to sustain my attention.

Some other thoughts:

  • I don’t know if footage of middle aged white guys trying to look tough while 90s rap plays in the background will ever not be funny. I hope not. Somewhere Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre are making bank from royalties.
  • I love Vince Vaughn – I have since Swingers – and even though he basically is doing the same shtick over and over again, it still cracks me up. One of the few moments that did make me laugh was the scene with him and the nesting dolls. He is definitely the best part of the movie – his facial expressions and his cadence are just so funny.
  • I understand that it’s a comedy, and a pretty preposterous one at that, but there are some pretty big plot holes in the movie. I’ll leave it at that.
  • I’m curious if Costco had to sign off on the movie, as one of their stores features pretty prominently in the action.
  • Richard Ayoade probably isn’t a household name, but he’s just as funny as the other leads. I’m vaguely familiar with him because I’ve started watching the British comedy The IT Crowd in which he co-stars. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for him in the future.
  • Will Forte also does a fine job in his supporting role. The problem with the movie isn’t the comedy pedigree of the participants. Keep an eye out for another SNL cast member in a quick cameo.
  • To the large, loud man sitting in the front of the theater – I have no idea why they decided to use the title Taken 2 instead of Taken Again for the Liam Neeson sequel, but I don’t think this necessitated your long diatribe during the previews. Yes – we could all hear you.
  • Speaking of previews, based on the ones I’ve seen recently, the trend this fall in horror movies will be possessed children. I’ve seen at least four previews for films where this is the central premise and all look super creepy. This must be the Insidious effect (one of the better recent films in the horror genre). And yes, I’ll probably see them all.
  • What a difference a week makes. I don’t know if it was the lackluster crop of new movies this weekend or the residual effects of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, but there was no one at the midnight movies last night. There were only a dozen cars in the parking lot when I left the theater at 2 am. I wasn’t expecting the crowds of last week, but I thought more teenage boys would have been at The Watch, especially since they don’t have school in the morning.
  • Apparently the good people at the Crossgates Regal cinema don’t read my blog. If they did, they would know that they should probably pull all their giant ads in the lobby for Gangster Squad since the movie has to be re-shot and the release will be delayed until 2013.

The Watch isn’t excruciating to sit through, but suffers from too many of the best jokes being featured in the trailer. It probably wasn’t financially viable, but it might have made more sense to shelve the movie for a bit until the Martin shooting wasn’t so fresh instead of overcompensating by giving away too much of the film. Despite the great cast and the solid writing staff, the film just doesn’t do their talents justice. Not worth your $10 at the cinema, but wouldn’t be terrible as a rental. Or just skip the movie, watch the trailer and save yourself 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The Watch opens nationwide today.

The Olympics

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret.

I don’t like the Olympics.

Now I realize that admission is unpopular. EVERYONE loves the Olympics. Every two years, the entire world turns their attention to the Games and is riveted. People who normally don’t have any interest in sporting events even get invested in the Olympics; it would be pulling teeth to get these people to watch a MLB baseball game, but put on gymnastics and the chance for a gold medal and it is a completely different story. To not like the Olympics is positively un-American.

While I don’t consider myself un-American, I cannot work up any enthusiasm for the Games. From a purely selfish point of view, I dread their arrival as the Olympics will dominate casual conversation and the media for weeks. People find it hard to believe that I don’t watch any of the Games; the only reason I saw any portion of Michael Phelps’ impressive gold medal streak in 2008 was because I happened to be out with friends at a restaurant/bar during one of his events. It was on every single TV and the place came to a standstill during his performance. When I asked if one of the smaller, out of the way televisions could be switched to the Yankee game, you would have thought I just asked to pee on their carpet. Faced with no other options and no one to talk to, I watched the only 20 minutes I would see of the Olympics.

My tolerance is slightly higher for the Winter Games than it is for the Summer Games. I don’t seek out events for either, but if I happen upon Olympic figure skating or hockey and there is nothing else on, I may have it on in the background and casually pay attention. I’ll also admit a weird fascination with curling – I stumbled upon it during the 2002 Games while on a trip to Montreal. Curling is much more popular in Canada, so it was on the TV a lot and I kind of got into it. If it got more coverage in the U.S., I might actually tune in for that, but even that is a bit of a stretch.

People are absolutely baffled when I confess my disinterest in the Olympics. I understand their confusion – as a huge sports fan, you would think that the Olympics and I would be a perfect fit. It’s odd that for one of the sporting events that everyone pays attention to, I’m on the sidelines.

I haven’t always felt this way about the Olympics; when I was a kid I was pretty into them. Back then, the Olympics was appointment television and I remember getting excited every four years when they would roll around (before they had the Winter and Summer Games in different years). We were still in the Cold War and the Olympics had slightly more significance. We wanted to beat “the commies”; the number of gold medals earned was seen not only as an individual achievement for the athletes, but as a referendum on an entire governing system. There seemed to be a lot more at stake. That’s what made “the miracle on ice” so important in 1980; people forget that the match wasn’t for the gold medal. Beating the U.S.S.R. had meaning beyond the ice and, especially as a kid, it was easy to get swept up in it.

It also helped that the 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, NY, which isn’t all that far from where I grew up. I was only three when the Games actually happened and don’t have any real memory of them, but the residual pride for the area lasted long after the athletes all went home. We had a mural in our elementary school cafeteria commemorating that Games and I remember staring at it for the five years I was there (it helped that there wasn’t much else to look at). That helped to reinforce in my young brain that the Olympics meant something.

While local and national prides were obviously in play, I can’t dismiss the importance of McDonald’s in my youthful exuberance for the Games. McDonald’s used to run a promotion during the Olympics where you would receive tabs on your soda, fries and sandwiches that indicated an event and a medal. If the U.S. earned the indicated medal in that event, you won prizes (usually more McDonald’s food). It provided me with some sort of investment, however minor, in the Games and the outcome. The promise of more happy meals was a strong motivating factor back in those days.

The climate has obviously changed for the Games. The Cold War is over and has been replaced with a much more scary international reality. There isn’t the clear “us vs. them” narrative; the conflict that we have with other nations is being actively fought on the ground, not on the race track. To my knowledge, McDonald’s no longer runs their Olympic promotion. Things are just different. But the biggest contributing factor to my disinterest in the Games, in my estimation, is the 24 hour news cycle.

When I watched the Olympics as a kid, it was pretty easy to avoid finding out the results of events. There might be some mention of it on the local news, but they always warned you to look away if you didn’t want to know. It was easy to dodge information and then watch the events on a tape delay (when necessary) in the evening, oblivious as to what had already happened.

With the rise of the Internet and cable news, however, that simplicity is gone. If you don’t want to know what has already happened, you have to be much more proactive in your defense. You can’t log onto Twitter or Facebook and you can’t look at most news sites online. Forget putting on CNN or MSNBC. You basically have to put your head in the sand. Some people are able to disconnect like that, but I am not one of them. Part of my job is communications, so I’m online all day. It’s just too much effort for me to avoid having the outcome spoiled. And if I know the outcome of the event, I’m just a lot less interested. Without the element of surprise, sporting events lose something of their luster for me.

The growth in the number of channels also makes it difficult to figure out when events are going to be aired. There are several channels airing events all that the same time. If I were more interested, I’d put in more of an effort. But I lack the motivation to seek out events and to keep track of the coverage. It also helps that there are plenty of other alternatives for things to watch. The Olympics are a ratings juggernaut, but they aren’t the only thing that is on. Faced with the option of watching the 100 yard dash or a repeat of Storage Wars, I’m picking the latter.

As I’ve really thought about my antipathy to the Games, I’ve come up with one final reason why I don’t tune in. I find the Games inherently sad. The athletes competing in these events have devoted their entire lives to their sport and for most, they will come up empty. All their work and sacrifice will essentially be for nothing. I know that there are intangibles and that the athletes are mostly doing what they love and living their dreams. I get that. But ultimately, the Games represent the end of their journey. And that makes me a little depressed. For most of the events, this is their one shot; it’s not like there are professional leagues for a lot of these sports. After the Olympics, they have to find something else to do with their lives. They can perhaps decide to train for the next Olympics, but for many that isn’t possible because of age, finance or injury. You are watching their dreams come to an end and that doesn’t appeal to me. The coverage of the Olympics specifically tries to make you identify with the athletes by playing up their back stories and the struggles that they have overcome to be there. To me, that only amplifies the melancholy.

Even the athletes that medal are often facing finality. For every Michael Phelps that becomes a household name, most Olympic athletes are quickly forgotten. A few can get some endorsement deals, but even those don’t last very long. There are only so many Kardashians to marry to prolong your relevance. To have trained for all those years, reached the pinnacle of your sport and then fade into obscurity seems unfair. It’s not a big factor as to why I don’t tune it, but it is a part of it.

If I happen to be home tomorrow night during the Opening Ceremonies, there is an off chance that I might tune in. Rumor has it that the London Ceremonies aren’t going to be very good and I am curious if they are going to be as bad as speculated. Early reports aren’t promising and the Beijing ceremonies were universally praised, so they have a tough act to follow. Plus I’m always up for a David Beckham sighting. But for the next few weeks, don’t bother asking me what I think of the Games. I’ll be too busy watching reruns.