Concert preview: O.A.R. freshens old songs by adding a horn section

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O.A.R. once again will be making a Pitt stop along the band's Summer Crush Tour 2012. Yet despite playing from Maine to Florida, its gig in Pittsburgh will reflect a deep part of O.A.R.'s history.

"As we were growing and developing this thing in Columbus, Pittsburgh was one of those places fairly early on that we would get to from time to time," said Jerry DePizzo, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist for the band. "We started playing Pittsburgh as early as 1999-2000."


Where: Stage AE, North Shore.

When: 7 tonight.

Tickets: $30-$35; 1-800-745-3000.

Along with high-profile gigs at Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park, O.A.R. performed at Stage AE in the venue's maiden year, where it will be performing tonight. According to Mr. DePizzo, fans should come prepared for some participation.

"They should expect to have a hoarse voice when they leave," he said. "Most people sing every word of every song, and that's a pretty fun experience for both sides of the stage. It's a high-energy, positive experience."

O.A.R. was formed out of Ohio State University in 1996 and gained success unconventionally -- primarily by word of mouth. The band continued to climb without mainstream success, selling out venues despite a lack of standard hit singles -- a result of its strong connection to its fan base.

"Our following is devoted to us, and we're devoted to our following," he said. "We really try to keep our ear to the ground, and we understand that we built this thing on a grassroots movement."

Beyond the dedication to having a fun performance every night, O.A.R. also makes every show unique, with a constantly rotating set list.

"We challenge ourselves and we strive to change our set list every single night," Mr. DePizzo said. "Even every song is slightly different every night, too. There's room in every tune for improvisation, whether it be musically or lyrically."

O.A.R.'s live performance also will include a new presence, one that will even change the songs themselves.

"We've been taking out a horn section, which, me being the sax player, has been a lot of fun and a great challenge," Mr. DePizzo said. "Reworking and revamping all of our old songs and old material, and having them be performed in a new light has been pretty cool and pretty fun for me, and for the audience as well."

Playing in the "Summer Crush Tour 2012" isn't just an arbitrary name, either.

"We want to be everybody's summer destination," he said. "It's the soundtrack to your summer, in the sense that if you want to spend some time outdoors in the sun, hanging out with your friends, having a good time, and singing along to some songs regardless of if you know the lyrics or not. It's just a big party atmosphere."

After touring this year, O.A.R. plans to release a movie based on that theme of summer centered around its performance this year at the Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Colorado. The band also wants to keep creating music for its fans -- a higher priority than achieving that elusive mainstream success.

"If the band continues to write honest music that we connect with, that comes from our hearts and souls, and it makes it on radio -- fantastic, that would be icing on the cake." he said. "But if not, I know that we have an audience that will continue to grow, that will still connect with us and be there for us every summer. "


Elliot Alpern:


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