Train are a strange group. When I initially told people I was going to see them I was almost always met with a blank stare, followed soon after by the one word question ‘Who?’ Yet when I mentioned the hit single they’ve released over the years ‘Drive By’, ‘Hey Soul Sister’ and most notably ‘Drops of Jupiter’, the fog lifted and I’d find myself be told how great those records were and how they didn’t know it was Train who’d put them out. Tonight however, when me and Mudkiss editor Mel arrive at the Manchester Apollo, it easy to see that there are also quite a few people who are very aware who Train are because we’re greeted with a massive queue that snakes around the block and well down the street.
With a line-up that includes only three original members: Singer Pat Monahan, lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford and drummer Scott Underwood, Train continue to turn out irresistibly smooth radio friendly soft rock that seeps into the brain until it’s impossible to remove. However crafting songs in the studio is one thing, what everyone is gathered here tonight for is to see if Train can cut the mustard live.
The warm up act for tonight is New Zealand’s very own Gin Wigmore. You may recognise her from the latest James Bond blockbuster ‘Skyfall’ in which the lovely Ms Wigmore has a brief cameo. However tonight Gin Wigmore performs on the Apollo stage rather than a film set and doesn’t appear either shaken or stirred by the experience. She’s every inch the rock chick complete with skin tight leggings and armfuls of tattoos and moves about the stage as though it’s her natural habitat. Her band’s pretty good too, especially the two guitarist who spend one song trading solos. The crowd warm to her almost immediately because she has some belting numbers in her repertoire, and to be truthful, she only just getting into her stride when she runs out of her allotted time and has to leave the stage. One to keep an eye on? You betcha!
The boys from Train come on to the pre-recorded sound of, yes you guessed it, a steam train leaving a station. It’s kinda corny but a little quaint at the same time. As you’d imagine the bulk of Train’s set tonight is drawn from the band’s newest album, the very wonderful ‘California 37’ and the first song they use to ease themselves into the performance is ‘50 Ways To Say Goodbye’ But after a further two songs and just when the band are hitting their stride, they take the curious decision to embark on a pointless cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Ramble On’. In fact this is one of five songs composed by other artists that Train will make an attempt at, and you have to wonder why a band with such a great back catalogue as Train would chose to do so. I still haven’t come up with a reasonable answer. However there’s still much to admire and some numbers really sparkle tonight.
The first real highlight of the evening is when Pat Monahan nearing the end of the sour ‘Feels Good At First’, asks the audience politely if he can sing the final verse without the use of his microphone. It’s quite a Goosebumps moment because he pulls it off with some style. Another special moment comes during the gentle ‘Mermaid’ when singer Pat Monahan decides would be better presented with about thirty or so girls plucked from the audience. Or throughout the touching ‘Marry Me’ where Monahan gets down on the barrier and takes pictures of himself and adoring fans on their mobiles while still serenading the crowd
But it’s the big singles that gets everyone’s heart thumping and those aces – ‘Drive By’, ‘Hey Soul Sister’ - thrown down at the end. Everything comes to a gentle halt with a fine rendition of what must be Train’s biggest hit ‘Drops Of Jupiter’ and everybody leaves with stars in their eyes and a smile on their face. It’s a cool gig by a band with a name that should be more widely recognised.
50 Ways To Say Goodbye
If It's Love
Ramble On (Led Zeppelin cover)
I Got You
You Can't Always Get What You Want (The Rolling Stones cover)
Calling All Angels
Bruises with Gin Wigmore
Feels Good at First
Save Me San Francisco
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley cover)
Everyday People (Sly & The Family Stone cover)
Hey Soul Sister
We Are Young (Fun cover)
This'll Be My Year
Drops of Jupiter