A look inside a crowded concert hall, in essence, is a look inside a band itself. What causes a particular group of people to mutually gather together to pay tribute to their music of choice? Could it be the artist, the music itself, or is it simply an opportunity to escape from an often routine existence with little occasion to celebrate other than that of cheering on a favourite ‘flat Idol singer’? The “I know it’s only rock & roll, but I like it” adage, may work for some, but for others, they are present to truly experience and believe in something.
Glancing out across the floor of the Meadow Brook Music Theatre, it was clear to see that fans of Grammy Award-winning band Train were in fact there for the music. The 7700-seater venue made way for the band’s spruced-up stage design complete with a lighting and video display unprecedented for the group. More so, it gave true song writing a stage to perform. With the crowd a mixture of both Generation X and Y, it was interesting to see how Train’s music spoke to the two groups collectively, yet separately.
Founding members Pat Monahan (vocals), Jimmy Stafford (guitar) and Scott Underwood (drums) came well-equipped with a stunning set list spanning their highly successful 19-year music career, but with a few surprises. With their latest cd “California 37” new to fans, they appropriately opened with their most current radio-friendly cut “50 Ways To Say Goodbye”.
Immediately noticeable was singer Monahan’s vocal range as well as his ability to use the stage to capture fans. With both voice and body expressing the music, he often mimicked his rap-style lyrics which in and of itself grabbed your attention. In a Jagger-like flair, he effortlessly drew the crowd in, and at one point during the song “Mermaid”, he politely coaxed several young ladies from the audience to ‘shake their booty’ and sing along to its familiar chorus.
Again it was an evening to celebrate great song writing. From the blockbusters “Drive By” and “Hey Soul Sister” to Grammy-winner “Drops Of Jupiter”, this Train was running on all engines. Guitarist Stafford melodiously added to the brilliance of each song by incorporating beautifully penned guitar lines. Seemingly humbled by Tuesday evening’s sold out crowd, his presence alongside Monahan generated a Plant/Page-like combination of charismatic front man vs. guitarist with mystique.
Noticeably surprising was the addition of two explosive female background singers adding rich gospel-like harmonies as well as Brian Switzer on trumpet. Holding firm as touring members since 2008 were bassist Hector Maldonada and keyboard/guitarist Jerry Becker. Maldonada also proved his own vocal abilities in a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Everyday People” from fellow San Franciscans Sly and the Family Stone.
Crediting the ‘City by the Bay’ for helping cultivate the band’s identity and sound, Train’s 6th studio cd “California 37” has maintained their credibility as consistent pop/rock songwriters whom now have found appeal in mass audiences. As career artists today so few and far between, this group seems to have established a vigorous momentum with few signs of slowing down. As the band are now securely anchored in the past, yet focused on the future, fans should be sure to head to their nearest station to get a ticket to the next unforgettable Train ride!