O.A.R.’s live show, like the majority of the band’s songs, is all about having fun.
And while the skies may have been overcast and gray, O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) kept things bright and breezy at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday night. Indeed, thunder and lightning threatened to overpower the crowd’s enthusiastic chants of “O.A.R.,” which began almost immediately after openers Ozomatli left the stage, but in the end, O.A.R.’s rabid fanbase overcame even these natural phenomena with its sheer volume.
The band delivered to the impatient throngs, opening with the one-two punch of “Revisited” and “Wonderful Day.” From the first song to the final notes of the encore, the assembled crowd was on its feet, dancing and singing along to nearly every word. “One Shot” was another early standout, featuring a Dave Matthews Band-style groove and a natural, if slightly tempered, saxophone solo from Jerry DePizzo.
It seemed to take a while for the band to loosen up and really groove, which was a bit surprising given O.A.R.’s very groove-oriented material. Frontman Marc Roberge appeared to be having the most fun throughout the set, giving especially impassioned vocal readings on “Heard the World” and a vamped version of “Whose Chariot?”
The group’s shining achievement and set centerpiece, “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker,” gave lead guitarist Richard On a chance to shine with some tasty licks of his own. Unfortunately, his playing, while quite good, was buried in the mix, and lost much of its punch. A drum solo from Chris Culos that included DePizzo on a snare during “Lay Down” in the first half of the set never truly got off the ground.
A solo Roberge kicked off the encore extremely strong with the acoustic ballad “Rhythm of Your Shoe,” while the audience responded in kind with raised lighters. The band closed the night out with “Whatever Happened,” calling back the members of Ozomatli to the stage. This band’s stellar playing made the song, and ultimately overshadowed the headliners.
Los Angeles’ Ozomatli rocked the audience hard before the main attraction, offering up a mish-mash of just about everything from hip-hop to funk to reggae to punk. Set opener “City of Angels” was a good harbinger of what was to come, featuring nearly every style the group tackled during the set, all in one song.
Ozomatli had no apparent frontman; every member of the band contributed fairly equally to singing and instrument playing. However, resident rapper Justin “El Nino” Poree made a strong case for the position, taking the spotlight whenever he had a vocal with a hyper stage presence. A ripping guitar solo during “Magnolia Soul,” courtesy of Raul Pacheco, gave Poree the perfect opportunity to dance crazily across the stage.
“Cumbia de los Muertos,” a shuffling, pseudo-reggae number, became the set’s centerpiece, turning into a medley featuring excerpts from “Pass the Dutchie” and, strangely enough, a Latin-tinged riff from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Roberge, who introduced the band in a show of camaraderie prior to the set, joined the group for the party groove “After Party.” Best of all was “When I Close My Eyes,” a ska-punk rampage that best showed off vocalist Asdru Sierra’s expressive, powerful range.