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Review: O.A.R. at the Lawn 

****1/2
click to enlarge Not pictured: Touring members Mikel Paris (keyboard), Jon Lampley (trumpet) and Evan Oberla (trombone)
  • Not pictured: Touring members Mikel Paris (keyboard), Jon Lampley (trumpet) and Evan Oberla (trombone)

O.A.R., Rebelution
Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park
Thursday, July 12

Indy was O.A.R.'s first stop on its summer tour and if the rest of the shows are anything like this one was, then I'd say the band is about to have a really great summer. O.A.R. didn't play one of my favorite song; "This Town," but I honestly didn't care because I enjoyed all of the other songs so much.

I wasn't quite as enchanted by the opening act, Rebelution from Santa Barbara, California. All of the band's music was straight up reggae with a few electronic hints, so it all started to sound the same to me after a while. Though it seemed like most of the crowd enjoyed Rebelution more than me. I wasn't the only one who felt the way I did; I caught a woman reading a magazine toward the end of the set, and instead of paying attention to the music, many people were turned around posing for photos instead.

By comparison, O.A.R. had an especially smart set list. The band made sure not to play all its reggae-inspired tunes at once, rather interspersing them between the rock songs so that the music would sound fresh every time. O.A.R. began its set with a few of the group's older songs, "The Wanderer," "Old Man Time" and "Love and Memories," then played "Taking On The World" from their latest album King, which was followed by the band's radio hit "Shattered." This pattern of playing a few older songs followed by a newer one, then punctuated with a hit (like King's "Heaven"), continued for the rest of the concert and was definitely effective.

Even the songs' various subject matters made sense next to one another; for example, the more acoustic-sounding "I Feel Home" was followed by the song "Road to Columbus," which contains the line "This Midwest way of ease it surrounds us. I can't deny the rhythm here." The feeling behind those words would certainly appeal to any Hoosier sensibility, particularly after a song that was all about feeling at home. Earlier in the evening, lead singer Marc Roberge praised the sense of identity he felt every time he played at the Lawn in Indianapolis, so Hoosier pride was definitely in the air.

The last song of the encore, "(That Was A) Crazy Game of Poker," was the perfect way to end the night. By that point, Roberge had total control over his listeners, as he'd had over 20 songs to grab us with his voice and force us to connect with the words he was singing. As he sang the words "How 'bout a revolution?", the audience's response was so enthusiastic that it was clear that everyone there would have followed him blindly. I say revolution, what about you?

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