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The O.A.R. faithful set another record

The third in a four-night run of Artpark concerts, unprecedented in its range, brought the largest crowd in the six-year history of the Wednesday night free concert series.

Maryland-born road warriors O.A.R. played to some 7,000 partying faithful at the outdoor amphitheater, atop the Lower Niagara River Gorge.

After pushing an attendance of 2,000 Monday for indie-folkie the Decemberists, seeing likely the largest Tuesday crowd in history as blues-rock legends ZZ Top drew more than 30,000, and already more than 3,000 in ticket sales for tonight's appearance by rapper Wiz Khalifa, the tucked-in Lewiston venue is peaking as a summer concert destination.

Reducing its Coors Light Wednesdays series to six this summer has proved a winning move. The reggae-tinged pop-rock of O.A.R. delivered what was expected -- a collegelike scene reflective of the band's core crowd, dotted with the demographics of the VH1 audience the group has been courting with recent records.

While O.A.R. stands for Of a Revolution, the band that first built its fan base at Ohio State University has never espoused revolutionary intentions. The group's evolution over seven records, however, was apparent Wednesday night.

Tour mates SOJA (short for Soldiers of Jah Army), based in Arlington, Va., opened the evening by sneaking some politics into its spirited reggae set. SOJA energetically blended styles in the space of the same song -- fueled by a fierce rhythm section, hot horns and smooth guitar solos from frontman Jacob Hemphill, whose staid vocals stood in contrast to those of co-founder and bassist Bob Jefferson.

Trumpet and trombone added to the O.A.R. lineup of Marc Roberge (vocals, guitar), Chris Culos (drums, percussion), Richard On (guitar, vocals), Benj Gershman (bass guitar), Jerry DePizzo (saxophone, guitar, backing vocals) and Mikel Paris (keyboards, percussion, vocals). The group dug deep in opening a two-hour set with "Black Rock," from its 1997 debut album "The Wanderer." "About an Hour Ago," "The Last Time" and "One Shot" followed with the trusted formula -- mostly good-time and uplifting lyrics geared well toward the college crowd but not fist-pumping enough for the frat rock folks want.

This evolution was evident in the group moving from an older number in "Night Shift" -- a ska-spiced jumper with a big sax solo from DePizzo -- to the backup horns as "vocalists" and the band tightening to a strum on the radio-ready, happy-go-lucky love song, "Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes." As Gershman reduced his reggae bounce to walk a straight line in the 2008 VH1 hit "Shattered," O.A.R. showed it had pops chops all along.

One can forgive a band 10 years removed from college and with a new "fan code of conduct" to want to grow up a bit. Welcome to mall rock.



Part of Coors Light Wednesday at the Artpark Outdoor Amphitheater in Lewiston.