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John Lamb, Published June 26 2013

Concert review: O.A.R. lights up ‘This Town’

MOORHEAD – O.A.R. may not exactly be a household name, but on Wednesday night the rock band did what Sheryl Crow, The Moody Blues, even Minnesota’s own Garrison Keillor couldn’t do – absolutely pack the house at the Bluestem Center for the Arts.

The group rolled through a nearly two-hour set at the Moorhead outdoor amphitheater, to a standing-room-only crowd of 2,817. It didn’t matter if there were seats or not, most of the fans stood or danced the night away.

While the quintet -bolstered by a touring pianist, trumpeter and trombonist ­­­­­­- has moved toward a more adult contemporary sound in the past few years, it was the earlier, funky tunes that really got fans moving.

After a few mid-tempo songs to open the set, the group launched into the reggae-influenced “Program Director,” with saxophonist Jerry DePizzo taking center stage with his sax solo.

The horn section got the biggest cheers, particularly on “City on Down” and “Hey Girl.”

The group’s only top 40 hit, “Shattered,” didn’t even match the enthusiasm for the horn songs, though the anthem “This Town” did.

Predictably, the highlight was the epic, signature song, “That was a Crazy Game of Poker,” which clocked in at 10 minutes, with a drum solo, synched to a bombastic light show.

Even if the songs didn’t move you, it was easy to enjoy yourself. The band’s light show was the biggest and best yet to play Bluestem and was only matched by the weather itself.

Heavy rains the night before swamped fields that provide spill-over parking, forcing about half of the crowd to take shuttles, prompting singer Marc Roberge to ad-lib in “About Mr. Brown,” “How about this weather?/It’s not going to rain on our parade.”

And the best parades have a great horn section.

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533