One of my favorite concert venues in New Jersey is the PNC Bank Arts Center. It only takes me about 30 minutes to drive there and only about 10 minutes max to leave the parking lot at the end of the night, (God bless). Every seat in the venue provides for a good view of the show, and lawn seats are a cost-savvy way to see your favorite artists without breaking the bank. I have frequented PNC more than any other concert venue- I’ve been witness to Kelly Clarkson, the Dixie Chicks, Sam Hunt, Kesha + Macklemore, Lady Antebellum + Darius Rucker, and most recently, American Authors and O.A.R.
I was incredibly psyched to see American Authors; they were ultimately the reason why I purchased the tickets. I did not really know a lot about O.A.R., and definitely did not know anything about the first act, Hunter Tones. But I did my due diligence, giving an ear to Hunter Tones and brushing up on my knowledge of O.A.R.
The most surprising thing about this concert for me was Huntertones- the Brooklyn based band describes themselves as “horn-driven”, and as my friend and I walked around the venue, it was clear they were a Jazz band. Which led me to ask one big question: why did they pick a jazz band to open for bands that are regularly featured on Alternative Radio stations?
The answer: O.A.R uses horns a lot in their performances! Their saxophonist, Jerry DePizzo, and trumpeter, Jon Lampley, were on fire. (Also, after some super sleuthing on Instagram, I found out that Jon Lampley actually is in Huntertones as well). Upon witnessing Jon Lampley hold the longest note I have ever witnessed by a trumpeter, my friend Erin declared: “I don’t think he is human.” So maybe some super sleuthing by the Ghostbusters should be called? Despite whether or not Lampley is a mythological creature, both horn players provided a stunning performance during the concert. Their enthusiasm was clear in their lively dancing and was a clear highlight of the show. I’ll talk more about O.A.R.’s performance later.
The first time I would have officially called myself a fan of American Authors, I was sitting on Point Pleasant Beach watching them perform at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk for 95.5 WPLJ’s Summer Blast Off in 2016. Their performance was noteworthy and left me feeling positively gleeful. It was clear they were a band I was going to make an effort to see live again. I can now attest the three year wait was worth it.
I was surprised by how few people made up the crowd for American Authors. Only about a third of the amphitheater was filled. The band “kept it 100” throughout their set, despite the lack of people in the audience, and were clearly masters of turning any performance into an intimate one. American Authors heavily involved the entire audience. They sprinted throughout the amphitheater, sat down in empty seats in the audience, and danced with fans. They were fun, they were loud, and they were energetic. I did not stop dancing until their set was finished. The last time I was engrossed in a live performance like that was when I saw Florence and The Machine at the Barclays Center Summer of 2016. Both these performances demanded something to be given from the audience- there was an exchange of energy between audience and artist, a perfect circular flow-chart. In my experience, this is what makes for a good concert- not costumes, not dance moves, not sparkling lights; but establishing a true human connection.
American Authors rallied through “Deep Water”, “Go Big or Go Home”, “Born to Run”, and finished with a roaring cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside”. Their performance was inspiring, engaging, and entertaining.
Despite the tiny turnout for American Authors, the PNC was filled just in time for O.A.R. to perform. This is perhaps my biggest criticism of the evening; the crowd was not a dynamic one. Much of those who saw American Authors left right after their set, and the O.A.R. crowd did not make any effort at all to support American Authors. Despite the startling change in audience, once O.A.R. began their set I had the privilege of witnessing others have a human to music connection.
The first word I thought of during O.A.R.’s performance was ‘familiar’. I might not have been able to sing along to more than two songs, but I never felt as if that hindered my ability to feel like I was a part of the energy exchange- which was a pretty big exchange at that. Every person was shouting the lyrics with an aura of joy. O.A.R. took this emotion and used it to catapult their lyrics. The band performed a melody with a message – their song “Peace” was met with warm lighters and words sung back to them.
Their setlist was a mix of old and new, and they even played homage to their first ever hit, “Hey Girl”. The flow they curated by the setlist showed strong attention to detail and passion they truly have for what they do. Which, as they stated on stage, has been their passion since they were in the eighth grade, when the band first formed. Overall, O.A.R. put on a rousing performance that was heavy on call-and-response and good vibes.
DJ Kay’s Take: Go to a concert at P.N.C, and go see American Authors and O.A.R. on tour. Make sure to stay for both; you won’t regret it.