Rebelution's Eric Rachmany sang in his purest dub voice on "Outta Control" from 2007's "Courage to Grow." Rory Carey's keys struck sporadically as Wesley Finley's tight snare drum led the song. The crowd swayed in its seats as Rachmany sang, "There ain't no easy way, and I can tell when I look you at you, you know exactly what I'm going through."
"Safe and Sound" was full of sensual questions laid over marijuana allusions. The echo the Fox produced complemented Rachmany's crisp vocals. Rebelution does modern dub and pop-reggae better than most imitators and possesses a sound both traditionally-supportive and subversive.
Twenty minutes after Rebelution, O.A.R. took the stage backed by Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks." On "City on Down," from 2002's "Any Time Now," Jerry DePizzo offered the first of the evening's bluesy saxophone solos. Marc Roberge's voice rang out warm and gravelly, as Jon Lampley added trumpet flare. "Delicate Few" occupied the space of a Dave Matthews Band tune, but with more dub vibrations, more uplifting lyrical notions and Roberge's crowd-leading bravado.
In their revelry, the attendees never lost respect for the historical theater. Maybe a drop or two of booze hit the carpet, some weed ash scuffed into the floor, but the shared appreciation of the venue was obvious, and Roberge supported it by noting more than once, "What a beautiful theatre."
My favorite O.A.R. songs are those that remain in the collegiate party, feel-good modality of "Crazy Game of Poker," or "Black Rock," rather than the soul aflame ideological happiness of O.A.R.'s more recent work. On "Whose Chariot?" from 2003's "In Between Now and Then" Roberge found God in every natural setting. The song featured too many radio-friendly hooks, turn-inducing snare cracks, distorted guitar and a forced "So I can be free" sentiment.
"Light Switch Sky" continued O.A.R.'s theology, and I wondered how many listen to O.A.R. for religious inspiration. The tone of said songs is so vastly different from the band's older secular tunes, that it feels like two different bands, the earlier one being perhaps the more mature in its way. The new O.A.R. seems fledgling as it switches to perhaps find a new audience.
"Hold True" started off acoustically before dropping into full band power replete with Evan Oberla's heady trombone and Roberge scatting before a big, cleansing crescendo. "Shattered" featured the evening's most cringe-worthy metaphor and tacky lyrical moment, "How many times can I break before I shatter?"
O.A.R cruised through the harpsichord-infused "Almost Easy," The Wanderer" and "Heaven." While "Heaven" had the entire crowd singing along, I lamented how Roberge seems to be positioning himself to be a Christian version of Matisyahu. The pop-reggae meets religion trope seemed to work sometimes for O.A.R., but most of the time, the content watered down the music.
"Night Shift," "Toy Store" and "Rhythm of Your Shoes" wound O.A.R. toward the end of their set. The songs grew longer and grander, featuring drop-time moments, Roberge freestyling and plenty of horn solos. "Irish Rose" began acoustically to suddenly explode into big band jamming. "Crazy Game of Poker" found fans throwing decks of cards into the air to celebrate O.A.R.'s most well-known song. The tune, true to its recorded version, also featured live aspects that lent new energy to the old track.
O.A.R. encored with "Black Rock" and "About Mr. Brown." Roberge and his band showed St. Louis an amazing night and surely pleased every fan in the house with a wide selection of tunes new and old. And yet, although O.A.R. showcased itself as a band of different phases -- from party debauchery to revelry, from carefree grooves to religious rock -- such shifts can divide a fan base and cause artistic dissonance.