Friday Night: Train at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Train Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 14, 2012

Train's music isn't going to win an award for composition anytime soon; it's far too generic for that. But the San Francisco band has found a number of other ways to be creative and prove their worth to even someone like me, who doesn't drive around town listening to "Hey, Soul Sister." Their live performance Friday proved that much.

At 8:45 p.m., the lights went out in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and, as the crowd shrieked in delight, the sound of a train whistle bellowed through the night air.

What I expected to be one more mediocre performance by another Top 40 band turned into one of the most fun nights I've had in some time. On top of playing all their hits, they even covered Aretha Franklin's "Respect," the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers and fun.'s "We Are Young." That's quite a repertoire.

During "Calling All Angels/You Can't Always Get What You Want," vocalist Pat Monahan jumped from the stage into the crowd, running up and down the pavilion's aisles as fans snapped photos and reached out for high fives. Beach balls were later thrown into the crowd, and during "Marry Me," a man in the audience even proposed to his girlfriend.

And yes, she said yes.

Before "Beauty in the Water," Monahan pulled a dozen or so young women onto the stage to dance. Many of them were teenagers who couldn't bring themselves to put their phones away, but the star of the song was named Gabby, who couldn't have been more than five years old.

As the cameras zoomed in on her, a mixture of excitement and nervousness overcame the young girl's face. At Monahan's request, the crowd cheered Gabby's dancing abilities and, after telling her that she was a beautiful young mermaid, Monahan signed her shirt.

Before the finale, Monahan told the crowd that every night, the band gives away a signed guitar to a fan, to whomever they've been most inspired by onstage. They usually bring the audience member onto the stage, he said, but in this case, he had to deliver the guitar.

He walked offstage, toward the front right of the crowd and handed the guitar to a young woman in a wheel chair. He then gave her a hug and walked back toward the stage.

There's something to be said about artists who genuinely give a damn about their audiences and, night after night, make sure fans get their money's worth. And then some.

I'm not going to be buying any of their albums any time soon, but I'm not their target audience; they aren't trying to reach me. The ones they're trying to reach, they clearly have, and fans feel it in a big way.

One fan even showed up dressed like Thomas the Tank Engine. I don't care who you are, that's awesome.

Personal Bias: It would be a lie to say I didn't find Train's music catchy, but I'll never buy one of their CDs. iTunes only.

Overheard in the Crowd: "I hope they don't play too much of their new album, because honestly... They're reaching a bit for content."

Random Notebook Dump: Guitarist Jimmy Stafford bears a pretty striking resemblance to that bald judge from America's Got Talent. I have no idea who the judge is or why he's famous, so I thought it might actually be him at first... Until I looked him up on Google and found out that his name is Howie Mandel.

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