O.A.R. w/Allen Stone | 09.13.15

live oar rockvilleRichie Sambora’s arrival in the middle of an alt-rock-gone-grassroots-jam-band-with-a-twist-of-soul was sort of like reliving the emotional rollercoaster of puberty, not knowing where you really fit in.



live allen stone2Largely unknown, Allen Stone and his band of ragtag, yet talented musicians took the stage without fanfare. As soon as he began singing, it became apparent Stone’s appearance, more Seattle hippie than anything else, did not at all jive with his soulful voice. Opening with two songs from his latest release, Radius—“Freezer Burn” and “Fake Future”—he quickly won over the crowd and had people murmuring, “Who is this guy?” After a brief “How you all doing tonight?” he returned to the music with “Symmetrical” and “Celebrate Tonight.”

Although his band included two female backup singers (who, of course, danced as well, at one point in tandem with the artist himself), Stone’s set was overall more about the music and less about the presentation. As he told us, “We’re here for one reason and that’s because we believe in the power of music.” And, judging from the warm Denver reception, the audience did, too. He invited us to “do whatever feels right,” whether that be sitting, standing, dancing, or drinking.

One-third of the way through the set, Stone finally stepped away from the mic stand, holding the wireless and pacing the stage like a caged tiger. Over a veritable feast of 12 songs, he never stopped smiling. He ceded the spotlight to the ladies twice, letting them flaunt their own vocal talents. Still, there was never any doubt it was Stone’s musical brilliance that made the show.

Although I was already a fan of “American Privilege,” hearing it live and listening to the words made it especially potent. About the vast discrepancy between the haves and have nots, the entitled and the barely getting by, the song seemed especially relevant: “American privilege keeps blurring my vision, inherited sickness/ Robbing Peter to pay Paul/ Cash that paycheck, spend it all/ Build that house up big and tall/ As long as I stay comfortable.”

A reworking of Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” bordered on brilliance, and the two songs on which O.A.R. members joined the band received roaring applause, as expected. And then, suddenly, the show was a production, one that raised the bar for the headliner to come. For set closer “Satisfaction,” Stone & Co. shifted into an even higher gear, showing off both vocal and musical prowess.

“How incredibly awesome and powerful it is to be in this venue,” revered Stone. There wasn’t a person in the crowd who would disagree. | Laura Hamlett 


live oar2The O.A.R. performance that came to Red Rocks on September 13 was precisely the definition of a revolution: a sudden, complete, or marked change in something. Almost exactly five years ago, I attended an O.A.R. show at this very venue, and what I witnessed tonight was a markedly different band. While beloved classics such as “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” and “Hey Girl” bore some resemblance to their original format, it was almost as if the band’s genre had morphed.

They opened with “Black Rock,” a fitting choice for the venue. Keeping with tradition, each member of the band had his moment in the spotlight. However, it was apparent early on that the horns took the show, well, by the horns. The new sound that resulted was remnants of the old O.A.R., infused with saxophonic synergy. If O.A.R. meant to make their Red Rocks experience revolutionary, they succeeded, but possibly at the cost of a few fans. The live show was a stark contrast even to The Rockville LP, the album for which the tour was named.

To add to the genre confusion, opener Allen Stone and his crew joined the band in a rendition of “Stand by Me.” The mountainous amphitheater lit up with modern lighters (that is, cell phone flashlights) while a bromance unfolded on the stage to the tune of a tuba, courtesy of show-stealing trumpeteer Jon Lampley. Fans were moved to tears by the rendition (and maybe a little bit by Marc Roberge and Stone’s hand-holding), but it was a strange and inexplicable add-on to the program.

Trying to maintain some semblance of consistency, O.A.R. proceeded to play a longtime crowd favorite they never forgo, “Crazy Game of Poker.” To their credit, they bypassed the traditional beach ball concert cliché and sprayed a slew of playing cards into the crowd. I picked up a pretty good hand: four Jacks and an Ace. Of course, two of the Jacks were diamonds, so my hand, it turns out, was as dubious as O.A.R.’s genre choice.

Then they changed it up again with a guest appearance by Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi (yes, Bon Jovi). While “Living on a Prayer” was a natural crowd-pleaser, the rock ’n ’ roll legend’s arrival in the middle of an alt-rock-gone-grassroots-jam-band-with-a-twist-of-soul was sort of like reliving the emotional rollercoaster of puberty, not knowing where you really fit in.

Don’t get me wrong: O.A.R.’s songs are imbued with lyrical mastery, and Roberge’s voice is an intoxicating blend of sultriness and tranquility. But if you like what you hear on the radio, then turn the car around. Otherwise, you might end up with two Jack of Diamonds. | Amanda Black

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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