A (not-at-all star struck) fan’s review of Train’s Play That Song tour in Sydney this August.
Train appeared on stage to the background noise of…….a train chugging and whistling. And for me, that set the tone for the night: this is a band that has fun. With lyrics, with their audience and with their performance.
The setting was the State Theatre. Stunning as it was, it seemed to warrant an air of restraint in the audience. With his tongue in his cheek, Pat Monahan thanked us for sitting down, as it ‘took the pressure off’. The beauty of this band, however, is the very real connection that its frontman made with his audience. A slow and steady surrender to his energy, wit and general likeability meant that by the end of the night the entire main floor was on its feet. And not just for the free t-shirts.
They opened with Drink Up, a seize the moment song from the new album to get the party started. And from then on, they barely stopped to take a breath. Bruises, a duet, was sung as a solo, so we tried to join in to ‘pick up the slack’. Pat Monahan and his incredible voice didn’t need any help.
And then some of the favourites: Hey Soul Sister, Drive By, Save Me San Francisco. Also some older ones like Meet Virginia, and the very cute Get to Me, about the many ways you can travel to get to someone who is waiting: “hitch a ride on the back of a butterfly,” echoed – in quirky Train fashion – an older Brenda Russell song, Get Here: “You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon.”
The question on everyone lips: Will they Play That Song? They sure did. But only when Sydney was standing up and ready for it. If nothing else, to be worthy of those smooth dance moves from the music video.
My wait for Drops of Jupiter was not in vain and I found myself ‘tracing my way through the constellation (hey hey)’ with the best of them. This was the song that first captured my interest in this American band because it spoke to me just like the poetry I dissected for fun. I loved the imagery of freeze-dried romance and the bizarre connections in a world where love, pride and deep-fried chicken could hang out in the same line.
I only found out later that the song was written after Pat’s mother passed away and the song came to him in a dream: his mother came back after traveling the universe to tell him that heaven was overrated and to love this life. I didn’t think I could love this song more.
Whilst you can enjoy a Train song without going too deep, some of their lyrics are so clever that you don’t have a choice: “I stopped believin’/ Although Journey told me don’t..” See??! So clever.
The themes – love lost, unrequited love, true love, old loves, broken hearts, seizing the day, friendship, moments that matter – may be common ones but their songs are anything but. The lyrics combine the deep and meaningful (“You are the greatest thing about me”) with the whimsical and flippant (“I wanna buy you everything except cologne/ ’Cause it’s poison”) so that what you get in the end are words that touch your soul as well as your funny bone.
To break up the set, we were treated to a couple of guitar solos and a medley of popular songs, old and new, including Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. Then a performance of Queen’s Under Pressure that presented the frontman’s vocal range in all its amazing glory.
But the stand-out moment of the night was when Pat Monahan put down his microphone and sang, only with his heart, the beautiful Always Midnight. A song I’d never heard before tonight and now want to hear forever. The words, about someone that is always just out of reach, something that is just not meant to be, about disappointment: “The sound of a train that I should have been on/ Reminding me that the last one’s gone/ With you it’s always midnight.”
After that, they could have played chugga-choo-choo noises all night, I don’t think anyone would have complained.
A lively yet soulful performance by a charismatic, funny guy and his very cool band.
©2017 Seetha Dodd