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The City Journals

The Mighty O.A.R Review: Keepin’ It Simple

Aug 11, 2019 03:03PM ● By Travis Barton

O.A.R. closes out the night at Red Butte. (Jenny Jones for the City Journals)

By Jenny Jones 

Tucked away in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, O.A.R., which stands for Of a Revolution, performed a career-spanning set full of fan-favorites and charting hits on Aug. 9 at Red Butte Garden and Arboretum. Having never been to Red Butte before, I was extremely pleased with the venue. The amphitheater is well maintained and there’s not a bad seat to be found. Plus, the gorgeous view of the mountains as a backdrop is quite the cherry on top. Being the middle of summer, it was hot, but with the gentle breeze coming from the canyon, it made for a comfortable evening. The stage foreshadowed the show to come; a simple, elegant setup and the light scheme placed all focus on the performers, whom did not disappoint. 

“The Mighty O.A.R” summer tour, in honor of the band’s forthcoming album of the same name, opened with Rozzi Crane, an American singer-songwriter from San Francisco. When Rozzi was 19 she made a name for herself after being discovered by Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5. Rozzi deserves more than just a mention here. Among being a phenomenal singer with milky vocals and pitch-perfect sound, she was energetic, captivating and down for a few selfies to get the crowd warmed up. Faced with a tall task—as a large part of the audience was still disengaged and strolling into the venue when her set started—she held strong and put on a powerful spectacle to get the audience ready for a fun night. After only a few songs, Rozzi left the stage leaving me and several other audience members wanting more. 

Next, American Authors stepped out with an hour-long set, featuring their old and new hits alike. They were welcomed with a booming audience, on their feet and ready to move. Most known for their single, “Best Day of My Life” which was of course placed at the end of their set. The band played a collection of tunes from folk to blues to pop. Members Zac Barnett, Dave Rublin, Matt Sanchez and James Shelley brought out electric and acoustic guitars, drums, tambourines all while harmonizing to complement lead singer Barnett. My attention however was stolen by Shelly on the five-string Deering banjo. The clear sound and pickups were not easy to overlook. While the band as a whole was energetic, engaging and keeping the audience on their feet, Shelly stole the stage with his laid-back attitude while crushing extremely difficult melodies on the banjo. I haven’t listened to American Authors since 2015 so my memory of their music was a little foggy, but I was more than pleased to recognize a few songs from their first album, and I sang along unapologetically.

Finally, after all the amped suspense and buildup from their opening acts, O.A.R took the stage. The band performed a 23-song set to an audience of dedicated fans.As I snuck up to the front to get pictures, I had to fight off a few feisty fans who had secured their spot with chairs, blankets and coolers four hours before showtime. 

O.A.R stepped out with little enthusiasm and mediocre crowd banter. While I was worried they wouldn’t live up to the energy of American Authors, once the music started I realized the banter wasn’t necessary—their talent spoke for them. The set covered the whole spectrum of O.A.R., from standout singles like “Love and Memories” and “Shattered (Turn the Car Around),” to deep cuts like “James” and “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” that only the most faithful of fans would recognize. 

Although their stage presence left more to be desired, it allowed for the focus to remain on the musical talents of the band, to which I was not disappointed. With the second song of the set, “About Mr. Brown” the band caught the audience and never let go. The two secret weapons came out and stole the show: Jerry DePizzo on the saxophone and Jon Lampley on the trumpet. These two completely transformed the band and the energy radiating from Lampley blew me away. 

As O.A.R’s lead man, Marc Roberge and his bandmates lit up the stage with “52-50,” a song that while enjoyable, is typically considered a forgettable track, the added percussion, inspired chord stringing and additional wind instruments made my attention unbreakable. The band electrified the crowd with a crescendo of guitar riffs, saxophone solos and vocals so powerful they rumbled your chest. It is mesmerizing to see this band play live. Hearing them on the radio or simply a digital track does not do them justice. 

The crowd remained engaged and most on their feet throughout the entire set. The band, also so engaged, played on for 20 or 30 minutes before braking to acknowledge the audience. Roberge shared a story of the band’s first ever set at a school talent show where he then reflected on the support of friends, family and fans—to which he dedicated their next song, “I Go Through.” Roberge’s ability to lead a song with little accompaniment was enthralling.  

O.A.R’s reggae-infused, instrument-heavy, fist-pumping billow of energy took me back to the edgy teenager indie rock mood of the early 2000s. Their powerful and riveting performance for this eager crowd in Salt Lake City, did not disappoint.