With an entire weekend of possibilities before them, hundreds of local college students and twenty-somethings filed into the University City Loopís hippest concert venue last Friday, for a night filled with laid back entertainment, courtesy of Of A Revolution (O.A.R.). After a fairly recent signing with a major label (LAVA/Atlantic), the band has built a substantial following during its independent status (and they came out in full-force for the sold-out show).
The set started off more subtly than anticipated, with acoustic versions of "Hold On True," and "Donít Think Twice", and a cover of The Beatlesí "Blackbird". While less intense than the electric songs that followed, they created a comfortable sense of informality, a defining quality of the band itself. About halfway through the third song, the vibe was more like the countless nights spent in a high school friendís basement; listening to the guys play guitars, enjoying collective feelings of comfort and optimism.
At most concerts, the crowd ventures as close as possible to the stage; letting the music wash over them; the closer to the band, the more intense their appreciation becomes. But Fridayís show was unique in that proximity to the boys of O.A.R. was completely irrelevant. Rather, it was the audience that transformed this show into a memorable experience. From the die-hard fans singing along word for word, to those less familiar patrons simply along for the ride, they were all connected; bonded together through the music and the mellow vibe that it demanded.
Perhaps it was the fact that the songs themselves create a unique balance between such diverse components. An interesting mix of reggae, folk-rock, and funk, O.A.R.ís music is a hybrid of different styles and sounds with idealistic lyrics focused on freedom and love. Additionally, their words seem less pretentious than many popular artists; theyíre uncomplicated and possess a distinctly narrative quality.
They went on to play crowd favorites such as "About An Hour Ago", and "Right On Time." Both tunes were welcomed by the choir of audience voices singing along and heartfelt cheers. With each song, the level of excitement grew, and the atmosphere grew from laid back to bursting with energy with "That Was A Crazy Game of Poker" getting one of the loudest reactions. By the time they finished "Hey Girl," their debut single and the last song of the set, the audience was still hungry for more. This was at least partly satisfied by an encore performance of "Nightshift."
If you didnít get a chance to see the show yourself, youíre in luck, O.A.R. is one of a number of bands who actually encourages the recording and trading of their live performances through a fan network at www.oarfans.com, or you can go the old fashioned route and buy their latest CD, In Between Now and Then, through their website www.ofarevolution.com. Most importantly, the boys will be back in town this summer, opening for Dave Matthews Band.
[Photo by Cory Weaver from a 2003 show]