Train / Photos: Clayton Taylor
Just before I exited my vehicle to walk in to the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion last night (May 22), I decided to thumb through social media pages. I read of a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, with multiple casualties confirmed. The story would develop throughout the night, and details of the tragedy are still unfolding. While I was standing in the security line, before I ever made it inside the venue, I learned 19 people had died. That number has since risen.
Next at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
Who: Mary J. Blige
When: 7:30 p.m. June 3
Where: Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers
Cost: Starting at $30 plus fees
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or visit arkansasmusicpavilion.com for information.
It was hard not to think of that while watching a live music event, like 8,000 or so did on Monday night when the “Play that Song” tour featuring Train, O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield stopped in Rogers. It’s possible that some there hadn’t heard of the incident before the night was over, that they didn’t receive a breaking news notification on their smartphone like many of us did. It was not mentioned by any of the three bands during their sets. If there were additional security measures taken, I didn’t notice them. That would have been difficult – the events were happening as we were all walking in the venue.
But it was hard not to let that color the evening, which saw the headliners perform on a stage impressively decorated to look like a jukebox, complete with flashing half circles of light and a large video screen where the player exists. This was a night of radio-friendly pop, provided without apologies and meant to bring people together. In the same vein, there was a touching moment near the end of the night. Train performed the song “Black Hole Sun” as a tribute to recently deceased vocalist and songwriter Chris Cornell, who wrote the song with the rock band Soundgarden. Still images from various points in Cornell’s career flashed on the screen behind Train as they played. It was obviously well planned, and pulled together in a hurry, too – Cornell was found dead less than a week ago.
The song brought people together at the AMP, because Soundgarden brought people together and many share in the collective loss. Music matters.
And that was the perspective I found renewed listening to Train, a band I do not actively follow and that has more hits than I am aware of, considering the reactions of the crowd. Indeed, as one might expect on a tour called “Play that Song,” the band dropped all of the songs they’ve made famous, such as big, bouncy radio hits like “Meet Virginia” and “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me),” which they used to close out their 90-minute set.
Lead singer Patrick Monahan paced around the stage and did his best to please fans. He grabbed a camera from a nearby operator and took matters into his own hands for a few minutes. He caught cell phones tossed at him and took selfies before tossing them back. And he seemed particularly enthused when singing with the opening artists doing guest spots. Natasha Bedingfield joined for the Train original “Bruises” and several members of O.A.R. took the stage for a lively run through Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.” With an added blast from the O.A.R. horn section, it was the highlight of a fairly predictable and choreographed night of music.
Train did all of the concert things – breaking down the band and coming forward for a quieter, acoustic-led interval punctuated by the song “Marry Me” and alternating between new and old. Train has been around since the mid-1990s. They know what they are doing.
The opening acts did, too. O.A.R. has been around just as long. It seems like just yesterday my college friends were overplaying them. They blasted through their 45-minute set. Their sound is something of a blend of Dave Matthews Band, Dispatch and Chicago. If you get a chance to see them, make sure to watch for trumpeter/hype man Jon Lampley, who did not stop moving for one moment during those 45 minutes. His energy is intense.
Bedingfield worked hard to get the crowd involved during her 30 minutes on stage. She had a tough go of it. The crowd was barely settled. The gear from O.A.R. was onstage behind her, and it covered up significant portions of her cloth backdrop. Her songs, and the covers that she chose, fit well in the mold of Train – light on substance, big on hooks.
Before the headliners got on the stage, a woman next to me told me she wasn’t the world’s biggest Train fan. She ended up with a free ticket courtesy of a friend, and she said she expected to recognize more Train songs than she could name off the top of her head.
Even if she didn’t know the band as well as some of those in our section, she told me this important thing: She rarely passes up free live music. Her friend gave her a ticket, and night of live music beats most alternatives.
That’s something I’m reminded of, and something we cannot take for granted. Live music uplifts, not depresses. Live music heals, not harms. Live music unifies, not separates.
The next time you get a chance, go see some live music. It’s good for you, and it’s good for us.