”Love & Memories” (from album Stories of a Stranger)
Alternative rock/groove band O.A.R. (a.k.a. Of A Revolution) did not play it safe with their new concert DVD/CD, Live From Madison Square Garden. Not only did they face the drama that goes with playing one of the world’s most prestigious venues, but the members knew at the end of the evening the cameras would be packed up and the director and film crew would call it a wrap. They’d either have a true, lasting document of that single concert or, if something went wrong, a total waste of time.
“This night was all or nothing,” says lead singer/guitarist Marc Roberge. It might seem odd, but he didn’t feel any pressure.
“We didn’t have a backup plan only because we were so, I guess, confident,” he says. “I wasn’t even nervous about it. I just thought everyone was working so hard. I mean, you’ve got the band guys, and then you’ve got, like, 50 other people working on it. Director Sam Erickson is a pro. He’d done it a million times. I had all the confidence in the world. The way our band looks at things is not, ‘Oh we’re nervous, we’re getting filmed.’ We were looking at it as an opportunity to shine.”
With the release of Live From Madison Square Garden DVD, fans can now see and hear how brightly the band shined that evening. It features the two-hour concert itself, plus a 90-minute feature film with additional concert and backstage footage and interviews with the band and fans. The CD version features the entire 18-song concert, which offers a cross-section of material from O.A.R.’s career.
Roberge assembled bandmates Benj Gershman (bass), Richard On (guitar), Chris Culos (drums), and Jerry DePizzo (saxophone) in 1997 in Rockville, Md. and gained notoriety in their days at Ohio State University. After releasing a few low-budget collections, the acclaimed 2003 album In Between Now And Then showed that O.A.R. had improved their studio chops, harnessing a rollicking blend of folk-rock, reggae, and island grooves.
But it wasn’t until the 2005 breakthrough effort Stories of a Stranger that they really made a conscious attempt to create a finely crafted, major-label-suited studio CD. Roberge teamed up with ace songwriters Glen Ballard, Jeff Trott, and Peter Zizzo, among others, and the band created a collection of songs that leaned more toward a modern pop-rock sound than the group’s earlier, jammier records.
They assert that Stories of a Stranger was meant to redefine the notion within radio and the music industry that O.A.R. was mainly a jam band whose songs weren’t suitable for mass consumption. The single, “Love And Memories” became a modest modern rock hit (as local 96 Wave listeners may remember well).
Looking back, Roberge is actually pleased that the band didn’t break through in a big way at commercial radio. “To be honest, I’m kind of happy that ‘Love And Memories’ didn’t reach the entire mass audience because then we would be defined by that sound, and I don’t think in retrospect that that’s our sound,” he says.
Fans can expect to hear some new originals, some new cover tunes, and a few rare songs from the O.A.R. catalog this Friday.
“I’m just excited,” Roberge says of the live show. “I think people are going to be excited, and this summer’s shows are going to be high energy with kick-ass light shows.”