'Train' concert rolls through Austin

Lew K. Cohn/The Highlander

Train lead singer Pat Monahan snaps a selfie with Highlander Managing Editor Lew K. Cohn's cellphone during a Saturday night, May 20, concert at Austin360 Amphitheater.





By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor, The Highlander

Few bands can boast a discography as diverse and celebrated as that of Train, the San Francisco-based roots rock band which released its tenth studio album, “a girl, a bottle, a boat,” earlier this year and made a stop at the Austin360 Amphitheater Saturday night on its “Play That Song” tour with opening acts Natasha Bedingfield and O.A.R.

That's because while some musical acts cannot weather change, Train owes its success to not only dealing with change, but embracing it. Their touring lineup Saturday included lead singer Pat Monahan as the lone holdover from the band's debut self-titled 1998 album, which brought them to the nation's consciousness with their infectious calling card of a tune, “Meet Virginia.”

Lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford continues to be a member of the band, but has taken time off from touring to be with family and did not participate in the recording of “a girl, a bottle, a boat,” which has spent 15 weeks on the charts and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart.

The absence of Stafford did not take away from a great show Saturday night in Austin. Betty and I had the fortune of purchasing VIP tickets, which allowed us to enjoy a pre-show reception and wine tasting, featuring some of the selections from the Save Me San Francisco Wine Co., which is owned by the band and named after their 2009 album, “Save Me San Francisco,” which features the hit songs “Hey Soul Sister,” “If It's Love,” “Marry Me” and title track.

We tasted the “Calling All Angels” chardonnay and the “Drops of Jupiter” California red. Both were very good and surprisingly light for dry wines. While “Drops of Jupiter” is based upon a Petite Sirah, it had very soft tannins, which is unusual for that style of wine and may have to do with its boysenberry base. The “Calling All Angels” had light pineapple and vanilla tones and an airy citrus scent. Both paired well with cheese and fruit.

After leaving the reception, we went to our seats, and what great seats they were! We were front row, center section, in the third and fourth seats, so we had a perfect spot to enjoy the concert. Australian songstress Natasha Bedingfield opened the show, playing her hit songs “Pocketful of Sunshine,” “These Words” and “Unwritten” as well as several other tunes from her catalog. The lovely singer engaged the crowd and got young and old up and moving.

Next up were O.A.R., a Rockville, Maryland-based band boasting a core of four members who have been together since high school and a fifth who joined them while they attended Ohio State University. Lead singer Mark Roberge worked the crowd while singing catchy tunes like their hit song, “Shattered,” as well as “Heaven,” “I Go Through” and “Peace.” Lead guitarist Richard On, saxophonist and guitarist Jerry DePizzo and trumpeter Jon Lampley all received well-deserved applause for their solos, especially Lampley, who also showed off some excellent pipes of his own.

But the best was yet to come, as Monahan and his bandmates took the stage. I think a Train concert can best be described as all of the fun of a day at a California beach without the hassle of getting sand in one's shoes. Monahan was in perfect form and his voice never showed any strain despite the workout he put it through Saturday night.
The band played all of their hit songs, including “Drops of Jupiter,” “Meet Virginia,” “Drive By,” “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” and “Angel in Blue Jeans.” They also performed new songs from the current album, including “Play The Song,” “Loverman,” “Drink Up,” “Valentine” and “Working Girl.”

Ever a mentor to younger acts, Monahan brought out Bedingfield to sing Ashley Monroe's part in “Bruises” and had Roberge, DePizzo and Lampley on stage for a rowsing version of the Paul Simon hit, “You Can Call Me Al,” which delighted my wife since one of the lyrics in the chorus states, “I can call you Betty, and Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al.” Having rock stars sing your first name over and over onstage can certainly be a thrill.

Monahan and crew also paid tribute to the late Chris Cornell — who died last week at age 52 — with a note-perfect rendition of the Soundgarden hit “Black Hole Sun,” complete with a montage of photographs of the singer from his early grunge days in Seattle to his days fronting Soundgarden and Audioslave.

The highlight of the show for me, however, was during the song “If It's Love.” During this number, Monahan will often go to the first row and take cell phone selfies with audience members. While we were in the front row, we were not in a position for Monahan to stand by us and reach my phone to take a photo if he wanted.

Imagine our surprise, however, when he came towards us after making the rounds at both sides of the stage and asked me to toss him my phone. I quickly obliged and he took the fantastic photo you see on this page before gently tossing the phone back to me with his trademark smile.

It was a great night that felt like it ended too soon. I cannot wait for the next time Train makes a stop in Texas. All aboard!

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