April 9, 2008

O.A.R.: Great Concert, or Greatest Concert?

Print More

It’s exhausting being the life of the party at Cornell. So many bars (and frats) to hop, names to drop, feels to cop. (Cherries to pop.) At this point, you’re ready to hang up your party hat and save what’s left of your energy for Slope Day.
And then you get a Facebook notification: O.A.R. is coming to Cornell. And what a revolution it proved to be.
O.A.R. opened with a lively rendition of “City on Down” in which Chris Culos and Jerry Depizzo carried out impressive drum and saxophone solos, respectively. Singer/guitarist Marc Roberge immediately established great rapport with the crowd as he promised that the evening would be filled with “a bunch of sing-alongs” and announced the start of the band’s spring college tour.
Everyone was energetic and eager to be in Barton Hall. People were crowded together by the stage and the audience thinned towards the back, where groups made themselves comfortable sitting on the ground or bleachers. O.A.R. seemed to appreciate the fan base and conversed coolly with the audience. “This is the closest we’ll ever get to an Ivy League school,” said Roberge of the band. “I’m not saying we’re not smart — we’re just different,” he joked.
“The Wanderer,” and “Conquering Fools” were followed by a request from the audience for a song, that was shot down. “We were going to do that one, but we haven’t rehearsed it,” said Roberge. “We’ll be playing it in the next few weeks, but we’ve rehearsed all these songs for now.”
A few more songs into the first set, Roberge turned down another song on the premise that all requests needed to be made before the show. Disappointment at this blunder sprung from a few core fans. “It’s lame that they wouldn’t play a song on the spot,” said Ross Peyser ’11.
As promised though, “Delicate Few,” “Home” and “Crazy Game of Poker,” to name a few, got the audience singing. Fans enthusiastically delivered the entire first stanza of “Black Rock” without any help from Roberge. Additionally, the lighting techniques complimented this song very well; red lights and bright flashes were coordinated flawlessly with audience participation and musical solos.
People completely forgot about the band’s apparent inability to improvise on the set list when they played “Anyway” and “Home.” In both songs, Roberge threw in Bob Marley quotes, including “The one good thing about music is when it hits ya, you feel no pain,” and the all-encompassing “another song of freedom.”
The first set ended at 10:15 p.m. with an enthusiastic rendition of “Crazy Game of Poker.” People jumped out of their seats and nearly everyone was standing and singing along. “So tell me something Cornell, did you have a good time tonight?” asked Roberge. “I mean, when I’m done, I want to make sure you’ve had a good time,” he said. The crowd’s immediate response and subsequent demand for an encore gave a straightforward indication of their appreciation. The second set consisted of many impressive guitar and saxophone solos and ended with a highly improvised version of “Hey Girl” that lasted almost ten minutes.
So what’s the verdict on O.A.R. live at Barton Hall? Throw in equal parts unconventional rock, island-vibe and soulful solos. Add a dash of lyrical brilliance, an unnervingly strong fan base and a jam band flare reminiscent of Phish (think more early ’90s concert culture, less musical genre parallelism). Hit “Power” on the blender without fastening the lid and you’re left with an explosive musical mixture that makes you think twice about putting away that party hat and, above all, sets a high standard for Slope Day.