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CONCERT REVIEW

The Revolution Is in the Crowd

Robert Randolph Steals the Show from Unimpressive O.A.R.

By Bo Miller

O.A.R., Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Orpheum Theatre

Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m.

Sometimes I wonder about crowds. What makes them so willing to participate in activities en masse that the people individually wouldn’t do if you waved a hundred dollar bill in their face? For example, 2,800 concert-goers, mostly college students, will scream their lungs out and shake their booties for a band just because the band is billed as a headliner. This, however, does not necessarily mean the band is good.

But who am I to judge people’s taste in music? I’m not trying to say that O.A.R., self-described as island vibe roots rock, did not put on a good show. The lights and the sound crew were fabulous. The energy was great as well. However, quality of music is subtly different from its genre. When the crowd is most hysterical when the featured band is playing a cover of a piece by a wildly successful band, it makes one wonder. That piece was “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by none other than U2. The second most popular song of the night was their own “Anyway,” the second encore piece they played with Robert Randolph. And it was popular because they played it with Robert Randolph.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band went on first, with a steel pedal guitar, an instrument most people don’t know exists. It’s a guitar that’s played like a piano, more or less. They were definitely not just an opening band. The crowd was on its feet and lovin’ the jams Randolph orchestrated. In fact, with songs like “I Need More Love” and “Going in the Right Direction,” they just about stole the show before it even started. The energy these guys created was phenomenal, setting the bar for the night, and I would hazard to guess it carried over into O.A.R.’s set, to their advantage. With two Grammy nominations and a Grammy performance on Feb. 8, it’s a wonder Robert Randolph and the Family Band weren’t the headliners. O.A.R. had their work cut out for them.

O.A.R., which stands for Of A Revolution, played an eight song set, with two tucked away for the encore. It started mellow and built up to their radio and video debut “Hey Girl,” a generic pop-y love song. They say they chose this song to introduce themselves to the mainstream public because it’s simple and easygoing. “Nothing too deep or complicated,” as bassist Benj Gershman puts it. “We felt that the song represents us well; it’s a good introduction to our band.”

As a testament to their simplicity, they followed this with their rendition of “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” I think I remember lead singer and guitarist Marc Roberge saying they like this song. Might it be because it’s deep and meaningful? Just a guess. And while the music is skillfully written, it is a little strange to see people dancing ecstatically to a song about war and death.

Those topics didn’t seem to faze the audience in the least, keeping up their youthful music-induced craze for the first last song, “That was a Crazy Game of Poker,” or just “Poker” to the insiders. Chanting the refrain “how ‘bout a revolution,” Roberge and the fans produced the kind of blissful synergy that only a love of music can create. This synergy was only heightened in their definitive last song “Anyway,” when Randolph came on the stage.

So while O.A.R. may not be the most musically-gifted band to grace this planet, they certainly know how to show people a good time. Sometimes, that’s all a crowd wants.