American Rock Band O.A.R. at Ruth Eckerd Hall August 2
Ruth Eckerd Hall will present American Rock Band, O.A.R., on Thursday, Aug. 2, in a 7 p.m. “Just Like Paradise” concert. O.A.R. will be joined by special guest Matt Nathanson! O.A.R. is a roots-and-reggae band that transcended jam band clichés to become one of the country’s most popular live acts.
Matt Nathanson, one of today’s most applauded songwriters and engaging performers, is best known for his breakthrough multi-platinum hit “Come on Get Higher.” Show starts at 7 p.m. on August 2.
During the course of its two decades of making records, O.A.R. — lead singer and primary songwriter Marc Roberge, drummer Chris Culos, guitarist Richard On, bassist Benj Gershman and saxophonist/guitarist Jerry DePizzo—has created and maintained a sort of a parallel universe. In effect hiding in plain sight from the world outside, the band fills arenas and amphitheaters as it crafts and releases relatable songs with big pop hooks, all of this activity going down completely apart from the mainstream. Within this universe, these songs are bona fide hits, and the band members are superstars.
Now, 20 years, endless shows and 13 albums later, O.A.R. (an acronym for the band’s full name: .…of a revolution) has assembled a comprehensive career overview: XX ; a 24-track, half-studio and half-live collection, shines a light on key moments from this vital, prolific band’s recording career. As a bonus to O.A.R.’s ecstatically devoted fans, the set opens with a pair of inspired, newly written songs: “Follow Me, Follow You” and “I Go Through,” which were written and recorded as the cameras rolled during Qello Concerts captivating six-part docu-series Evolution of a Song.
“People like being part of what we are doing, because we exist and we succeed within our own community,” Roberge points out. “We have no desire to exist or succeed by someone else’s standards. We just want to provide for our families and give them every opportunity, and do that by playing shows and making music.”
XX is neither a career culmination nor a conventional greatest-hits album; rather, it’s a sizing up, a series of aural snapshots on a continuing journey. Roberge views O.A.R.’s evolution as a series of stepping stones—he refers to this zigzagging movement as “island-hopping”—and each of the songs on XX represents a moment of significance for the bandmembers and for their devoted fans. The one song that appears twice, “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker,” a definitive tune that dates back to that first album, The Wanderer, closes Disc One of XX, while an extended take recorded during the band’s triumphant 2015 “You Pick the Set Tour” at Providence’s Fete Music Hall climaxes Disc Two.
Roberge breaks down the rationale behind the selection of some of the other tracks he and his bandmates have identified as “springboards to the next moment” in O.A.R.’s narrative. The medley of their own “Night Shift” and Bob Marley the Wailers’ “Stir It Up,” on which they were joined by reggae legend Junior Marvin, “was a live recording at the 9:30 Club in D.C., ” Roberge recalls. “It combined our music and the music we’ve always loved. We didn’t want to play Bob Marley’s music or reggae in general unless we received some sort education in that music from the people who were there, and Junior bridged that gap—he came out and made it a moment for us.” The album, 2002’s Any Time Now, went gold.
“I Feel Home,” from the same album, “has to be on there because it harkens back to innocent times—our very beginnings,” Roberge explains.
For other performances consider Fleetwood Mac.