Middle Aged Escapist Fun

Published

Credit: Michael Honablue

Ash Neilson
Writer

Train at the O2 Academy

While watching replays of Will and Grace, I was struck that, 13 years on, Eric McCormack was no longer the sharp suited sit-com Adonis of my childhood dreams.

I had much the same realization at Train’s recent sold-out gig at the O2 Academy. Lead singer Patrick Monahan bounded onto the stage in very skinny jeans, and he seemed decidedly more 40-something than the singer my mother had worshipped in the late 90s. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, but the massive success of 2009’s ‘Save me San Francisco’ makes it easy to think of Train as a contemporary music act, rather than a band fast approaching its 25th anniversary. This feeling was heightened by the fact that, as students, we fell short of the median age of the crowd by a good twenty years.

And yet, the overwhelming feel of the night was one of real fun. Breaking boundaries has never been Train’s objective; their commercial success can largely be attributed to the fact that their music has always fallen at the acoustic end of what could be considered rock. But at this stage in the band’s life cycle, their supporters know that, and it’s exactly what they’re here for. There could be something undignified about a forty-eight-year-old father of two skipping around the stage with the energy of a twenty something, throwing T-shirts into the auditorium; but the crowd were so eager and willing that even the most committed cynic would struggle not to get caught up in the good feeling. Monahan is an expertly involved performer; he made the right – much appreciated -references to his love of Glasgow and rolled out some seemingly obscure songs to cater to fan requests.

The set-list was a solid balance of the big numbers everyone was expecting, some newer and less frequently played material and even a few covers. This provided an interesting insight into the bands that have influenced Train’s music. Monahan made a point to include the whole band, and there were a number of enjoyable – perhaps indulgent – drum and guitar solos.

The standout moment of the night arrived when Monahan asked to sing a song from his solo career and set his microphone to the side. The few talkers were furiously shushed and the 2500 strong crowd were held in almost complete silence while he sang. Apart from one token interjection of ‘On Yersel Pat!’, it was almost moving to see a crowd of devoted fans stand in silent appreciation of an artist they obviously genuinely care about.

Strong support came from opening act Hannah Grace. The Welsh singer’s minimalist, one guitar, one singer set included a mix of well selected covers and originals. Her obvious talent was slightly short changed by a crowd hungry for the main event, but those that were listening appreciated it.

The night ended, of course, with an encore of the Grammy winning ‘Drops of Jupiter’; ‘Hey Soul Sister’ having been played halfway through the night to keep up momentum. The singing continued out to the subway and the crowd left more than satisfied. Perhaps the whole evening could be described as indulgent but it made for seasoned and undeniably feel good entertainment that didn’t feel tired. Their fan base may include a few more parents than it once did, but, if their reception in Glasgow is anything to go by, Train will continue being asked to ‘Play That Song’ for years to come.