34th & 8th

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34th & 8th is O.A.R.'s second official live album. It's a two-disc affair like 2002's Any Time Now, but in a move befitting the band's jump to Lava/Atlantic, the tri-folding package includes a full-length DVD of the show and some snappy artwork. Recorded on the 28th and 29th of November during the '03 tour for In Between Now and Then, 34th favors the band's jammy side. To that end, oldies like "Black Rock" and "About Mr. Brown" dawdle past the six- and seven- minute mark, and disc one ends with a medley of "City on Down" and "Delicate Few." While fans of the more straightforward In Between Now and Then might balk at this approach, dilly-dallyers should know that what O.A.R. lack in brevity they make up for with boundless, addictive energy. Led by the relentlessly hopeful, invitingly grainy vocals of Marc Roberge and featuring the sax of Jerry DePizzo (not to mention a rhythm section capable of transforming reggae shuffle into plaintive pop in the slap of a bass string), O.A.R. spread the good-time vibes all over their jams. The result? Even for the wary or uncaring, this stuff is more inviting than a bus full of gypsy dress-wearing supermodels. "Let's bring this energy up a bunch," Roberge says at the beginning of 34th & 8th's second half, and launches promptly into In Between's urgent "Right on Time." That leads into a few more upbeat tracks ("King of the Thing" is a highlight) before the extended intro of "Toy Store" moves toward a meander again. As usual, fan fave "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker" ends the set. This time around it's over ten-minutes long, with solos galore and a dub-inflected breakdown with some heartfelt crowd participation. Those who know O.A.R. from their AAA blip "Hey Girl" probably won't understand this set. But there's a reason why the Hammerstein Ballroom was filled that Thanksgiving weekend, and it's got nothing to do with O.A.R.'s major label ROI.

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