After another long break from writing for the blog, here I am again. This week I attended my first music concert in Australia. Back in Brazil, I would frequently go watch bands live, and write about it for Prós e Contras, but since the concerts were there, I wrote in Portuguese only. So this is also the first time I’m reporting on a music performance in English. Before I get to it, I should tell you a few things, so as to give you, readers, the ability to judge my opinion, which, I can warn you, is biased.
I’ve been a fan of Train since I heard “Drops of Jupiter”, over a decade ago. I have all their records except for Alive at Last, and they rank second in my Lastfm list of most listened to artists, behind The Beatles (although if I’d had an account there for my whole life, they’d certainly drop down a bit). Last year, they went to Brazil and played in my city, Porto Alegre, in a festival headed by Shakira. I naturally bought tickets, but because of traffic (the venue chosen was very far and not very accessible) I only made it in time to see them perform “Hey Soul Sister” (which I like, but not as much as some of their other works). Before that, in line, hurrying to get in, I heard from afar as they played “Drops of Jupiter”, which, incidentally, I consider one of the best songs, if not the best, from the last 15 years. So I had something to make up for this time. As if all that was not enough, this also made for the first time I visited the inside of the Opera House (well, the Concert Hall, technically). So you can all imagine I was in a pretty good mood to begin with. One more piece of information, I went in without knowing anything about the tour setlist. I wanted it to be a surprise.
The Concert Hall is what one would expect by looking at the outside of Opera House: beautiful, comfortable and elegant. There were no lines at the entrance, everything was clean and organized. The night started with the opening act of Matt Nathanson. Very funny and great at interacting with the audience, the American singer got some loud laughs and lots of clapping from the audience. He was also noticeably very excited about his music. The only downside, in my humble opinion, was that the music itself lacked something to distinguish it. Not bad, but not something that sticks with you. After about half an hour of Nathanson, it was time to wait for the main act.
Train went on stage a bit after 21h. The first chords were those of “50 Ways to Say Goodbye”, from their most recent album. It’s a fast paced song, with a strong chorus, and that didn’t quite transfer to the stage. And the same can be said about the following song, “This’ll be My Year”, perhaps the most powerful from California 37, and one that I really hoped for. Neither song was badly played, but I expected them to offer the kind of performance that gets everyone jumping. Not quite. Then came song number three, “If It’s Love”, and things started getting warmer. For the verses before the last chorus (which start with “hold our cellphones up in the air…”), Pat Monahan (the singer) asked the audience to do as the song says, so he could take a picture of the lit up Concert Hall.
Song number 4 finally set the concert on fire, as the first chords of a song almost lost in time came to life. At one point, Pat asked the audience if anyone remembered that song. Of course, I did. I’m referring to “Meet Virginia”, from their first record, released in 1998. Had it not been for the huge success of “Drops of Jupiter”, it’s likely “Meet Virginia” would have fallen into oblivion. It’s the kind of song that an artist might leave in the past, but Train doesn’t want to forget the past (as Pat makes clear in the lyrics to “This’ll Be My Year). I don’t know if I can speak for all the fans, but I went absolutely happy-crazy as the band travelled 14 years through time to bring Virginia to the Opera House. Next up was another good surprise, “Get to Me”, from their 2003 album “My Private Nation”. At that point, the band asked two kids and three teenagers to climb on stage and sing with them. It was cute and it was fun. By then, the band was totally comfortable. The audience was in love.
The surprises continued with Ordinary, that only hardcore fans might remember (this was the theme song for Spiderman 2). The live performance was very energetic. The next song was presented by Pat as a “kind of” part 2 to ‘Drops of Jupiter'” (which was written after the passing of his mom). The California 37 song You Can Finally Meet My Mom is a heart-melter, and was every bit as touching on stage as it is on the album. To keep the emotions rolling, the next song was Calling All Angels, and the performance was brilliant, making it one of the best songs of the night. Then, the audience really got to participate, when Pat invited us to sing parts of “Save Me San Francisco”, title song of their previous album. Then came “Mermaid”, which I particularly don’t feel so happy about, and another surprise: Pat invites Delta Goodrem to perform “Bruises”. It must be considered that it’s much more difficult to sing live than in studio, but I certainly prefer Ashley Monroe’s performance from the album track. Nevertheless, Pat and Delta had chemistry, and it was fun to watch.
After that, another fan favorite, “Marry Me”. Pat sang some of it without the microphone, and everyone loved that. And then we had the biggest surprise, one that even great fans might not have pinpointed: Aerosmith’s “Dream On”. The band performed it for TV show “MTV Icon”, to which I remember Steven Tyler saying he’d never seen the song played better. Though Tyler was probably just being nice, Train’s cover is indeed brilliant. The rest of the band then left the stage while the audience was presented with a drum solo, very cool one, by the way.
For the final part of the evening, the big hit of the past couple of years. They barely started playing “Hey Soul Sister” and a lot of the audience was standing. As I mentioned before, this is not one of my favorites, but I find it quite cool. And it was engaging played live. It was followed by their current hit, “Drive By”, with another energetic performance. Pat even invited Delta to join them again, and she sang a bit of the chorus with him. Then, possibly, the worst decision of the set list: “California 37”. Not that it’s a bad song, but it was completely lost among their biggest hits. Which were completed soon after, as the band started playing the one song. That one, the one I love, the one I missed a year ago. When the piano brought up “Drops of Jupiter”, it was my time to stand up and live the dream. Best moment of a night full of great moments. Something to cherish forever. As a goodbye note, the band played one more song, “Sing Together” – to which they encouraged the audience to do so, and to remember that that’s the way we should go through life: together.
I think the show might have had a couple more songs – I thought they would play “She’s on Fire” and “Parachute”, but if I could choose, I would have “Something More” included. Not that it diminishes the great event that it was. The impression I get is that Train, and Pat, have matured noticeably. They know where they come from. They know where they are. They know what they want to say, and how to say it. Their lyrics are the best in representing adult thinking without being pedantic. Train is even more of a personal favorite now.
Complete set list:
50 Ways to Say Goodbye
This’ll Be My Year
If It’s Love
Get to Me
You Can Finally Meet My Mom
Calling All Angels
Save Me San Francisco
Bruises (with Delta Goodrem)
Hey Soul Sister
Drops of Jupiter