As part of The Tribune’s coverage of the 2014 California Mid-State Fair, we’re publishing a series of concert reviews. Below, Tribune photographer Laura Dickinson reviews Thursday’s Train concert.
The stage goes black. The entire crowd jumps to their feet when they hear the long, slow, chugging steam train sound and that familiar far-off whistle. The stage lights blast on and Train steamrolls the crowd with the opening song "Calling all Angels."
The Grammy award-winning band from San Francisco performed Thursday night, July 24, at the Chumash Grandstand Arena. It was the band’s third appearance at the California Mid-State Fair.
While the opening act, The Wallflowers, played an enjoyable, mellow set, including my favorite, “One Headlight,” which brought the audience to their feet, the mood definitely changed to a high-charged anticipation, "Now THIS is a concert — let’s rock" mode.
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Train has a wide-spectrum playlist of songs with sounds that range from slight, alt-country, to '90s angst, a brush of Spanish flair and a few (what I think are) overproduced, wall-of-sound, but youth-pleasing rock tunes. Add to that list is their spot-on rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” perfectly sung by Pat Monahan spurred on by his rocking band.
There was a pretty good showing for a warm, muggy Thursday night. The arena was about 80 percent full with a mixed crowd of country lovers in cowboy hats, young hipsters in short skirts and boots and oldsters with a glass of wine in each hand, wearing bright, neon-orange tank tops and white running shoes.
They loved the sound of Train.
Some of the hits they played were "Save Me, San Francisco" (I wished, just for fun, they had sung "San Luis Obispo" instead), "If it’s Love," "Get to Me," "Meet Virginia," "When I Look to the Sky," "Bruises," "Angel in Blue Jeans," and my favorite, "Hey, Soul Sister."
During one song, "Mermaid," Monahan asked women to come up onto the stage and dance. The entire stage was lined with willing women, and then he began grabbing cell phones and taking selfies.
Then, the next song the band performed was "Marry Me" (heart thumping ensues). Much to the delightful surprise of the entire crowd, Monahan paused the song and asked a young couple, locals Jordan Main and Rachel Moore, to come up on stage. Apparently, Main had spent months asking if he could propose to Moore during the concert. Not sure it was going to happen at the last second, Main was called up by Monahan and a dream came true. The crowd went absolutely wild after Moore said yes. Monahan continued the song as the happy couple danced on stage.
Talk about engaging the crowd!