- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Marc Roberge, lead singer of O.A.R., drew a big cheer from a sellout crowd Tuesday night with the line “When I’m with my friends, I feel home.”

“Home” is Rockville for the guys of O.A.R. — they picked up saxman Jerry DePizzo while at Ohio State University — and about 7,000 close friends staged a homecoming for the nationally popular band’s first appearance at Wolf Trap, a venue Mr. Roberge said he’d always dreamed of playing.

“Someday, someday,” he recalled musing.

That dream came and went in about 100 minutes, during which the band mixed favorites from the days of playing clubs in Columbus, Ohio (the must-do “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker,” for instance) and songs such as “Patiently” from a forthcoming live album.

Adding to the homecoming aura was a guest appearance from members of another regional band, Virginia Coalition, for a long, teetering-on-buzzkill funk jam.

Of a Revolution, to use the group’s full proper name (don’t ever call them “oar”), is often compared to the Dave Matthews Band, which is fair but not a complete picture.

The band is far more intrigued by melding rock to reggae and ska than Mr. Matthews is — as Police-esque songs such as “Dareh Meyod” and an evening-closing cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” demonstrated.

Drummer Chris Culos is a decent Stewart Copeland study, pulling off some tricky stop-time syncopation, even as bassist Benj Gershman played a bit too busily and heavily.

On songs such as “Hey Girl” and “Wonderful Day,” the band’s sound is infectiously sunny, but occasionally, it became over-bright. In a rendition of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” Mr. DePizzo’s sax lines drained the song of its original protesty angst.

When Mr. Roberge assumed the reins on the acoustic-based “I Feel Home,” he sang with more authority than he had all night, pouring out feelings of homesickness and displacement: “There are few things pure in this world anymore, and home is one of the few.”

He must be over it, though. I’m told by an O.A.R. devotee that the song “Destination” was called “Destination Rockville” in an earlier incarnation. Now, Mr. Roberge says, “Destination, rock steady” — which, in concert, sounded like “rock city.”

Either way, it’s clear Mr. Roberge and company don’t need to click their heels and return home. Washington is way too small to contain them now.

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