Train - Shepherd's Bush Empire (25/10/2010)
David Spencer | Friday, 29 October 2010
Train are one of those American bands that have one hit in the UK and then hold onto a small but loyal following for the rest of their releases. 'Drops Of Jupiter' was that hit in 2001. Reaching number 10 it was a classic piece of rock-pop. But 2010 changed that one-hit scenario drastically, not just in the UK but around the world. Even if you are a Chile miner recently re-united with the world, you have probably heard 'Hey Soul Sister' way too many times.
That single is one of the airplay songs of this year and has meant Train visiting the UK for the second time in a year, having been away for some time. And that's something lead singer Patrick Monahan apologises for during the evening; "for a while we forgot you, a mistake we won't make again," he swoons to a loud cheer. Loud cheers are to follow in abundance, during what turns out to be a proper show, not just a gig.
Things start awkwardly though, with the sound of a train hooter rumbling around the Empire as the band walk onto stage. Smiles are exchanged between audience members, but underneath they are thinking "surely the rest of the night won't be this clichéd?" Thankfully it isn't, and as Monahan launches into 'Parachute', it is evident this is a band re-invigorated by success this year.
Monahan's voice is superb, and the sound set up is perfect as Train rumble through a string of back catalogue tracks; 'Get To Me', 'Meet Virginia' and 'She's On Fire' all come across with new vigour live. But it is what goes on between the music, with Monahan's electric stage presence, that stands out.
First up there is a call for six girls from the audience to form the Trainettes, then a walk around the audience during 'Marry Me' and to round it off some crowd surfing. He is a proper performer with an obvious talent for stand-up too. He also has a tremendous voice, as demonstrated during an extraordinary rendition of 'When I Look To The Sky', where he ditches the mic for the first verse and chorus, to a completely hushed audience. Now that IS the X Factor.
It is inevitable that 'Hey Soul Sister' is saved until the end and despite your best intentions it is impossible not to sing along. The classy 'Drops of Jupiter' is the even more obvious encore, but a surprise is in store afterwards as we are told the new video for their festive song 'Shake up Christmas' is being recorded. It is October, so it is far too early for these reserved Brits to get too Christmassy, but red and white confetti help give it all a bit of cheer.
Like Matchbox 20, Counting Crows and many others, Train are unlikely to make it really big in the UK (even 'Hey Soul Sister' only got to number 18) but tonight they prove to be fantastic entertainment. It helps they have greats songs like 'This Ain't Goodbye' and 'Calling All Angels' to call upon, but they are far more fun and funky live than on record.