I’ve been an O.A.R. fan for a decade or more now. After seeing them randomly on a talk show, I hunted them down on-line and downloaded lots of bootlegs off the Internet Archives, which they supported and encouraged.
Nowadays, they record all of their own shows and make them available on their website for $10 a pop, less on some holiday weekends. (They were only $8 over Labor Day, for example.)
In the last couple of weeks, without any warning that I had seen, five concerts popped up as high def downloadable videos. The whole package was $50, or you could buy them individually for $12.99.
There were no previews on the website or on their YouTube channel, so I took a flyer and bought just one to sample: the Innsbrook show, which looked like O.A.R. was playing a small picnic more than anything else. I’m so used to seeing them at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ where the crowd is over 10,000, or in concert videos like Red Rocks and Madison Square Garden. This venue looks tiny by comparison.
I’ll save you that experimentation: If you like the band and you like their concert performances, go ahead and buy whatever shows you want from this list. You have nothing to worry about. They’re worth the money. We could quibble over any number of things, but for the price they are well worth it.
The video quality is excellent. It breaks down a little when you enlarge the image, with some shots later in the show as night falls looking like they got boosted a bit to be brighter and suffering the consequences. However, the default size on my Quicktime Player window works out great and minimizes those effects.
The audio to go along with that is obviously straight off the board and well mixed. Solos come out crisp and clear, no one part of the band ever shouts down the other. All the typical mix-ups from live music mixes are avoided here.
And how about this for a nice bonus: When you buy the concert video, you get the MP3 tracks from the show along with it. Suddenly, your $12.99 purchase includes a $9.99 gift. Not a bad deal at all.
Cameras are scattered around the stage for the show. Of course, there’s one from the soundboard front and center to get the “hero shot” of Marc Roberge singing, or to go wide to get the whole stage filled with people. There’s one or two clamped down around the drum set, from the looks of it, which often provide nice two shots looking over Chris Culos’ shoulder to someone in front of stage. There’s plenty of movement, though. There might not be a camera man sitting on a train track zipping back and forth in front of the first row, but the video never feels static.
Most of the camera angles feel really close to the band. It’s not about placing a bunch of cameras at a discrete distance and then zooming in for ‘clean’ shots. The long shots include the crowd in silhouette at the bottom. Lots of wide angles get used because the cameras are so close.
It’s a bit looser than what you might expect from a high end concert DVD. Cuts are made on the beat and all, but there are some moments where it feels like the wrong performer is being featured. Some solos are missed — though very few. I’d bet the camera aimed at the soloist had someone else standing in the way, so the weird cut was to hide that loss. (Like, at the end of “I Want Peace,” why is the trumpeter shown singing along with the final line of the song, rather than Roberge?).
The more I watch it, the more I appreciate some of the less traditional concert camera angles, like the two shots that fit the rule of thirds. This is a video shot with a still photographer’s eye almost more than a music video director’s eye. And given how many music videos are headache-inducing and unwatchable, that’s a high compliment.
While there are crowd shows inserted into the concert, it’s not too many. I hate crowd shots. The last thing I want to see is a bunch of drunk college kids with red cups in their hands singing along and dancing awkwardly. (To be fair, the audience for this particular concert appeared slightly older. Maybe O.A.R. fandom has grown up in the last few years.)
Oh, and all the iPhones. That’s the worst part. I feel sorry for the people who get stuck watching the iPhone screen held over the head of the person in front of them all night.
Forgive me, for I am an old man now…
This is a single file download. You don’t get easy track access. This is not a DVD. There is no jumping from chapter to chapter. Each concert is a roughly two hour file with no markers. That might be the biggest drawback, but I’m also not sure how you’d fix that. The last thing I’d want is to have to deal with managing 20 different movie files and setting up a playlist to play through them in order or something.
The long and short of it is this: It’s not a perfect concert film, but it’s a good value for the money and the ease of access. It looks a lot better than I was expecting, and I hope they do more. I might not buy a lot of them (as much as I’ve love to), but I’d definitely pick and choose a few more examples.