LEWISTON – Wednesday evening in Lewiston was typical for Western New York this summer. That is to say: it poured. Several times. However, despite a delay and evacuation, O.A.R. and its openers still took the stage and turned out energizing, if slightly soggy, performances as part of Artpark’s Coors Light Wednesday series.
Soul singer Allen Stone started things off, but rain and lightning cut him short after just 25 minutes. State Parks Police evacuated the outdoor amphitheater area for safety reasons. Though they were ushered out of the main area, people were invited to wait for sunnier skies in the shelter of either their cars or the Mainstage Theater.
The clouds eventually cleared, and after roughly an hour and a half of waiting, those who had stuck it out were rewarded with an inspired, all-too-short set by Andrew McMahon, better known as the heart, soul and lead singer of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. He treated the delay with good humor, announcing that “All we had to do back here was drink, so…” to the audience’s loud approval.
McMahon blasted his way through a few selections from his new solo material as well as some of his most well-loved songs, including the Jack’s Mannequin favorites “Dark Blue” and “La La Lie” and the 2002 Something Corporate hit “Woke Up in a Car.” His piano-fueled, alternative pop seemed powered by sheer enthusiasm, his passion for his songs keeping him on his feet even as he helmed the piano throughout the set. His was a performance worthy of its own headliner status and most definitely a spectacular opener for O.A.R., (short for Of a Revolution).
Then, following another worrisome, thankfully brief rain shower during McMahon’s performance, the O.A.R. faithful got what they came for. The five-man band (along with three part-time members manning the keyboard, trumpet and trombone), wasted no time in launching into its catchy, ska-inspired pop-rock. With front man Marc Roberge leading the way, the band played for a full 35 minutes without breaking for even a moment of banter, clearly wanting to make up for the delays the crowd had endured.
During its hour-and-a-half set, the band performed songs from all walks of its 17-year career, including “On Top the Cage,” “If Only She Knew” and “Hey Girl,” a particularly joyful, carefree tune. Some selections inspired more dancing, hopping in place and singing in the audience than others, but all were embraced by a crowd that was just happy it was getting a performance at all. Each band member was given a chance to shine individually within songs, and they all owned it. Saxophone player Jerry DePizzo, especially, seemed to be a crowd favorite.
Of course, O.A.R. made sure to include the two songs they’re best known for, “Love and Memories” and “Shattered,” and got the expected response of unbridled excitement. As Roberge stilled his voice to let the audience take over a “Love and Memories” chorus, a device he must employ at every single show, they sang back at him with such gusto and clarity that he seemed truly surprised. “That’s really great,” he shouted to the crowd between the next two verses. Despite the inconvenience of a rain storm and a wait, the sentiment seemed mutual.