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Jumping on the success Train

BRIAN FOY | Wednesday, October 15, 2003

On Monday evening, Train came chugging into South Bend’s Morris Performing Arts Center with the opening act The Josh Kelly Band. Train’s My Private Nation Tour made its final stop with The Josh Kelly Band much to the delight of the almost sold-out crowd. The nearly 80-year old venue proved to be the perfect stage for these two adult contemporary bands. The high ceilings allowed both acts music to resonate as the vocals bellowed from the front men. The atmosphere for The Josh Kelly Band was laid back as concertgoers trickled in throughout their thirty minute set. The soft pale light provided a soothing backdrop for the crooning Josh Kelly does so well. When Train took the stage, the Morris was near-full concert capacity and the smoke machine was on full-throttle. The lights remained dimmed until the songs would crescendo when the lights would brighten and elicit cheers from the audience.

The night began with upstart Josh Kelly and his merry band of players. The Josh Kelly Band has the acoustic guitar sound that every college kid loves. While aspects of Josh Kelly’s music seem to come from the same cookie-cutter mold that Dave Matthews perfected, the sound is definitely all his own. Beyond the standard band instruments, The Josh Kelly Band featured an organ and a lap steel guitar that allowed Kelly to create his unique sound. The highlights of the half-hour set were the last two songs that got the crowd on their feet. Kelly and the boys did a very unique rendition of Steve Miller Band’s “Joker” complete with the lap steel added for layering effect. The Josh Kelly Band then ended their set with the new single “Amazing”. The song was obviously their culmination because of its catchy lyrics and familiar melody that had the crowd clapping their hands.

The headlining act Train was the next band to pull into the station. The audience voiced its approval when singer Pat Monahan told the crowd to “put you hands in the air”. Towards the beginning of the set, Train played its first radio hit “Meet Virginia” which got the crowd of mostly 30-somethings on its feet. A few songs later, Pat began to work the audience with the line, “I was advised to say ‘Go Irish,'” and then striking a pose before the opening of “Save The Day.” Train then transitioned into another song from its new album “My Private Nation.” “Mississippi” is a slow brewing jam that features the acoustic as well as slide guitar and was heightened by the soft blue lights to the band’s back. Pat then told a story about bass player Charlie Colin’s uncle. “Everyone’s got an Uncle Bob,” he began, “but his is different because he sings this,” and Train went into a nearly flawless medley of Led Zeppelin covers. The band began with “Ramble On” then went into “Whole Lotta Love” and then back into “Ramble On”. The timing and musical ability of Train was on display as they nailed the intricacies of the Zeppelin classics. Jimmy Stratford replicated the solos of Jimmy Page and Sam displayed the vocal range of Robert Plant. The set ended with the obligatory “I can’t wait to come back” and Sam leading the crowd in a rendition of “Hey Hey Hey Goodbye.” Train came back on stage for their first encore to the applause of many and ended it with a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Once again, Train showed their musical competence as Jimmy mimicked Joe Parry’s guitar and Sam imitated Steven Tyler’s vocals. The last encore, to the surprise of no one, ended with Train’s most popular single “Drops of Jupiter”.

The atmosphere of the Morris Performing Arts Center was very unique and is a great escape to the architecture of the 1920s. The beautiful interior and state-of-the- art stage house provide the perfect venue for a quality concert. However, the “My Private Nation Tour” was the not a quality concert worthy of the grand and historic building. Josh Kelly and his fellow musicians put forth a very good effort for a young band. Kelly displayed his ability to write catchy lyrics and the band did a tremendous job of accompanying him. Kelly is young and with time will come into his own as a singer and a songwriter. However, Train has been together for nearly a decade and has three albums to show for its work. Their music has not changed much over the years and the vast majority of their music sounds the same. Train is obviously comprised of talented musicians as the Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith covers show, but they fail to show much ingenuity in their music.