34th & 8th
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by T.J. Simon
O.A.R. ("Of a Revolution") is a Washington, DC-based jam band with both an easygoing, island-infused vibe and a rabid following built from playing the college circuit for several years. Each Thanksgiving weekend, the group performs at New York Cityís Hammerstein Ballroom, and the 2003 shows are the substance of the bandís generous double-CD 34th & 8th. The package also includes a DVD featuring concert footage as well as a limited series of interviews with the ensembleís members.
Although the concert was in support of O.A.R.ís major label debut In Between Now and Then, only 4 of the 18 tracks originate from the album. Of these cuts, Right On Time best displays the cause of such intense fan devotion. The rest of the material draws together a variety of fan favorites from the bandís indie days, most notably a recording of City on Down that seamlessly evolves into Delicate Few, both of which were plucked from the groupís breakthrough outing Risen.
Throughout the collection, singer Marc Roberge is in fine voice, and the saxophone accents provided by Jerry DePizzo add heft and texture to the O.A.R.ís suburban, reggae grooves. Because this is a live album from a jam band, however, the songs are greatly extended in length. Nearly every other track exceeds the six-minute mark, and the traditional show closer That Was a Crazy Game of Poker clocks in at nearly 18 minutes. Most groups couldnít make this work, but O.A.R.ís improvisational fury seems purposeful and never meanders into unreasonable territory.
Bear in mind that it was only two years ago that O.A.R. released Any Time Now ó another live, double disc ó and five of the songs from that collection also appear on 34th and 8th with substantially little difference in their basic structures. Therefore, what sets 34th and 8th apart is the inclusion of the concert DVD. In fact, the band spared no expense in capturing seven of the tunes from its shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom, utilizing an expensive-looking, well-edited, beautifully lit, five-camera shoot. O.A.R.ís collective charisma shines through on video, and the portraits of the crowd convey an enthusiastically good time. During the performance of About Mr. Brown, Roberge emanates a Dave Matthews-ish vibe, which isnít all that surprising considering that the groups share many of the same fans.
As with any live album, 34th & 8th is probably not the best introduction to O.A.R. for the uninitiated. However, followers of the band will be immensely pleased with both the volume and quality of the content on this latest release.
34th & 8th is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box