It was a steamy 95 degrees in Nashville, with humidity making it even hotter, but fans came out in full force to see the three big names on Train’s AM Gold Tour. The bands kicked off the trek last week and it is already an amazing display of musicianship and camaraderie. OC Music News was there to get a preview of what to expect when the tour stops in SoCal July 26th in San Diego at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre, and July 29th in Irvine at FivePoint Amphitheater.
After decades as a band, more than 10 million albums sold, and a Grammy win tossed in, San Francisco’s Train released “AM Gold” last month. “AM Gold” is Train’s first new album in five years and they were eager to be back in front of fans. Front-man Pat Monahan explained, “Writing songs for two and a half years in front of video screens instead of being in the presence of other humans has been a long, strange trip. And now here we are. It has to start with love. Love that goes into work comes out of work. We love this song, this album, and our fans. Thank you for waiting so long for us.”
Will Anderson, front-man for the band Parachute, opened the show – a hometown one for him – with lots of audience participation. As the amphitheater welcomed fans, those that had arrived early enjoyed the sing-along and some “I chill….with Will!” chants.
After a tumultuous 2021 that included a bus crash and surgery for front-man John Popper, it was a pleasure to see them in person. After promising Train was going to “rock our brains out,” Blues Traveler kicked their set off with a nine-minute version of “Carolina Blues.” The jam session showed off one of those epic harmonica solos we’d expect from Popper who, despite having COVID last month, sounded strong and did not miss a note with his harmonica skills.
Keyboardist Ben Wilson and guitarist Chan Kinchla had their solo spotlight on “Funky Bitch,” a Son Seals cover, and “Run Around” brought the crowd to their feet with phones out to video. Bassist Tad Kinchla displayed his skills during “Dropping Some NYC” and Popper did a lovely duet of John Lennon’s “Imagine” with “Nashville” actress Clare Bowen.
The mood picked up again when the band launched into “But Anyway,” another song showcasing the skills of Popper and Chan Kinchla. We finally got a drum solo from Brendan Hill, and a slightly sped up version of “Hook.” Popper’s vocals mid-song are already challenging on the “regular” version, so for him to get through it even faster was an impressive feat!
When Blues Traveler wrapped their set, they made their cross-country trip a little lighter by tossing harmonicas, drum sticks, and guitar picks to the crowd.
Jewel has been giving some hilarious intros as she takes the stage and this was no exception: “She once had a feud with Mariah Carey, but they have made up and are totally cool now….” She began with “Standing Still” and at one point asked the crowd, “Tell me… do you love me?” She was met with many cheers of approval. After saying, “If I could tell the world one thing, it’s that we will be ok,” she went into “Hands,” before showcasing “Long Way ’round” from her new album, “Freewheelin’ Woman.”
While she looked stunning in a kimono, shorts, and boots, she commented on the temps with, “My Alaskan heinie is not used to this heat!” After asking, “Does anyone here struggle with anxiety? Everyone! So I wrote this for you!” and played another new tune, “No More Tears.” No offense whatsoever to Jewel’s band, but she performed this song with just a piano and it was amazing. Her voice was truly able to shine in the quietness of the song.
Her band returned to rock with more new songs, but after asking for requests, she went back to just her voice and an acoustic guitar for “You Were Meant for Me.” Jewel spoke to the crowd often and asked for more requests. There were many loud shouts for her yodeling skills, which she performed with superhuman speed. In fact, I think she may be a robot…
Full disclosure: “Foolish Games” is one of my absolute favorite songs, and hearing her sing it with just a piano accompanying her brought me – and others in the audience – to tears.
For her final song, Jewel told fans that it was the first song she ever wrote, and it was done at age 16 while hitchhiking through Mexico. “This was my first song on the radio – and it was played between Nirvana and Soundgarden – and it changed my life forever. I get to do what I love and I do not take this for granted.” Her massive debut single “Who Will Save Your Soul?” closed her set and the audience shared their approval of her performance.
As the temp finally started to drop to non-hell numbers, Casey Kasem’s voice could be heard giving a countdown of songs from the ‘70s (aka AM Gold). With Doobie Brothers “What a Fool Believes,” Queen “We are the Champions,” and Player “Baby Come Back,” we were transported to the past for a musical history lesson. After introducing America’s “Sister Golden Hair,” Kasem’s countdown was interrupted by “Jump Around” by House of Pain, and the crowd’s energy shot up. Video screens came to life and LEDs all over the stage flashed with ‘70’s style fonts and logos, and then from the darkness… Train!
Keeping that golden past vibe going, they kicked it off with the album and tour namesake, “AM Gold.” After front-man Pat Monahan asked, “Is anyone here old enough to remember this one?,” they played the familiar intro to “Meet Virginia.” Monahan slipped on a tee with Meet Virginia printed on the front and tossed out a nice stack of shirts to the crowd. After having all the band members sign his shirt, he gave out the actual shirt off his back. Many of Train’s songs had songs from the ‘70s mashed in and “Meet Virginia” had some of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.”
As they moved to “If It’s Love,” I saw an audience completely full of trust for Monahan. After taking a video of the crowd for social media, Monahan proceeded to catch phones the crowd was throwing at him, take a selfie, then toss them back. People threw their actual lifelines to the man and he caught every single one. While his singing was amazing, I gotta say, this was also some next-level talent.
John Popper came to the stage to duet and give a harmonica solo to “Bruises,” which had some “Love the One You’re With” mixed in. The entire visual presentation of the show was gorgeous and so very crisp; like the first time we saw high-def TV back in the day.
With the crowd helping chant along “I’ve been high, I’ve been low, I’ve been yes, And I’ve been oh hell no,” Train did “Save Me, San Francisco” and unleashed inflatable beach balls in varying sizes upon the audience. As we ducked and volleyed, Jewel returned to the stage for “Turn the Radio Up” and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” with “Listen to the Music” blended in. The crowd responded by dancing and singing along, but the dancing was replaced by gentle swaying when Monahan grabbed a ukulele and performed “It’s Everything” solo. He kept it chill for the beginning of “Marry Me,” but the band gradually joined him onstage.
As they played through “When I Look to the Sky” in a fairly acoustic fashion, Monahan delivered an incredible vocal performance that I’m pretty sure he didn’t even need a microphone for. His voice had been strong all night, but damn. This one was ridiculously good.
Sparklers lit up the stage during “Calling All Angels,” and the band was back up to full-on rock style. Monahan encouraged the audience to care for others and, “Think of all the people who need our love the most. Let’s put our hands to the sky and set it to them.”
Every musician on the stage was fantastic. Of course, being up front, guitarist Taylor Locke and bassist Hector Maldonado got lots of face time, but Jerry Becker on keys and guitar, and Matt Musty on drums got to show off. We were also treated to back up vocalists Nikita Houston and Sakai Smith joining Monahan up front for a bit. Maldonado’s Spanish guitar abilities were displayed for another new song from “AM Gold,” “Cleopatra.” This duet between Monahan and Sofia Reyes (appearing via video screen) was the perfect summer mood for the evening at the outdoor venue.
Keeping the ‘70s mash-ups going, “Hey, Soul Sister” had “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone blended in. After a cover of Dirty Heads’ “Vacation,” we were once again in the 1970s for the encore with a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Train concluded the evening with “Drops of Jupiter,” which had what sounded like all of Nashville singing along with them.
It truly was a phenomenal show; the kind where I go home and check for other dates near me in hopes of catching it again live. If you can’t get to one of the many dates or the SoCal shows, Train will livestream their August 6th performance at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.