Monday, August 12, 2013

Train capably leads hit-filled party in Irvine

My review originally posted on The Orange County Register site on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. A special "thank you" to Kelly A. Swift for the use of her photography.

Train capably leads hit-filled party in Irvine

Stunned to have sold out Verizon, they nonetheless delivered like pros, delighting fans.

There are concerts that are potent, riveting performances delivered by artists whose trendsetting songs are the very definition of brilliance – Bruce Springsteen, U2, Neil Young and Radiohead immediately come to mind.
Set list: Train at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Main set: Calling All Angels / 50 Ways to Say Goodbye / If It's Love / Get to Me / Meet Virginia / Feels Good at First / Marry Me / Save Me, San Francisco / Free / Beatles medley / Mermaid / Bob Marley medley / Bruises (featuring Ashley Monroe) / Weed Instead of Roses (featuring Monroe) / drum solo / California 37 / Hey, Soul Sister / Can't Hold Us / Drive By
Encore: We Were Made for This / Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) / The Weight (cover of the Band, with all performers)
Black Sabbath, Aug. 28, $25-$135.50
Lil Wayne with T.I., 2 Chainz and G-Easy, Sept. 1, $53.75-$125.75 (no lawn seating)
Backstreet Boys, Sept. 6, $20-$139
Call: 800-745-3000
Then there are concerts that are simply about live-for-the-moment good times. The summer party hosted by Train and featuring the Script and Gavin DeGraw at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine (on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013) was exactly that, pleasing a packed house that sang, danced, drank and posed for photos throughout a night where hit songs were never more than a few minutes away.
Train has scored a number of radio staples since its self-titled 1998 debut, and all of them were performed with precision Friday night. From the outset, with "Calling All Angels," singer Pat Monahan was an animated and spirited frontman. Lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford immediately impressed with solid solos and rhythms on that 2003 smash, and many more to come.
The three-time Grammy-winning group's far-flung mix of styles has incorporated folk, blues, rock, R&B, surf-rock, dance and country over the years, all facets displayed in Irvine. Along with original drummer Scott Underwood, the band's 90-minute set was assisted by top-notch touring players and several female backing vocalists.
Monahan and his mates seemed genuinely amazed to have sold out such a large venue in a region identified with their early career (though from the Bay Area, they recorded their debut in Laguna Beach). "It was only about four years ago we played at House of Blues in Los Angeles," the singer recalled, noting they attracted a mere 500 people to that show. "I don't know what happened, but we are happy it did."
Train deftly delivered a mix of old and new favorites, from the modern dance-pop of "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" and "Drive By" to the country-styled "Bruises" (with guest star Ashley Monroe sharing lead vocals) and more rock-oriented fare, like the Stones-ish "Save Me, San Francisco" or Bad Company-esque "Free," which launched into a mini-set spotlighting the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" and "All You Need Is Love."
The party atmosphere reached its peak with "Mermaid," a beach ditty reminiscent of Jimmy Buffett, during which a number of fans dressed in decorative aquatic gear filled the stage and sang along.
Train's set wrapped up with a strong run through their best tracks, including "Hey, Soul Sister," the ambitious rocker "We Were Made for This" and "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)." And less than a week after Bob Dylan, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Ryan Bingham memorably performed "The Weight" on this stage, all of this event's performers did the same Friday, joining forces for a rousing rendition of that Band classic, with Monahan, Monroe, leadoff act Gavin DeGraw and the Script's Danny O'Donoghue taking verses and singing harmoniously.
Outstanding singer/keyboardist DeGraw may have had the challenge of starting at 7 p.m. sharp, but his 40-minute set thrilled early birds. Backed by a sharp four-man band, he blended his strains of soul/R&B and pop/rock via uplifting versions of "Follow Through" and "Chariot" (gems from his 2003 debut) and newer choice cuts like "Make a Move" and "Who's Gonna Save Us?," the latter finding him far out into the crowd, still singing. His new single "The Best I Ever Had" and an equally infectious take on his 2011 hit "Not Over You" closed out a fast-paced set.
Irish trio the Script likely earned plenty of new fans over the course of its determined 60-minute set, mixing rock, dance, electronica and modern R&B in up-tempo tracks like driving opener "Good Ol' Days," the bittersweet "We Cry" (which addresses the plight of the poor with potency) and the affecting "If You Could See Me Now." The band closed with "Hall of Fame," an inspiring piece that immediately had the crowd up and grooving, mostly unaware of the song's probing lyrics about overcoming adversity. Indeed, this night was all about the party.
Scott Underwood of Tain.
Photos: Kelly A. Swift

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