Pat Monahan told me early this month in our preview interview for What's Up! that his "Play That Song Tour" sounds like summer. After a beautiful, lightly breezy night at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on Monday, I think I have to agree.
Pop/rock group Train returned to Arkansas on Monday night (you can read Monahan's humorous tale about abandoning a van in Little Rock early in their career here) and were joined by O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield. The ticket felt like a throwback to my high school (and maybe even middle school?) days when singles by all three acts were in my active listening rotation. But despite some nostalgia-inducing moments, the music felt fresh. (Perhaps because I've never seen any of these groups perform live?)
I was struck by the age diversity of the crowd. I guess I shouldn't have been since Monahan specifically mentioned that's one of the things he's proudest of -- "From grandparents to grandchildren and parents and their kids, no one has to drag each other to a show because it's for all of them" -- but to see it in person at the AMP is different than hearing about it. But it wasn't just families. Groups of kids were there with their friends, as were young adults and baby boomers alike without kids in tow.
Bedingfield took the stage at 7 p.m. to a still-filling venue. Her beachy waves and crop top with flowing cape sleeves twirling before the cheery balloons of her backdrop certainly complemented her already bubbly performance. Bedingfield bounced and swayed through a quick set of her biggest hits -- including "These Words," "Pocketful of Sunshine," "Love Like This" -- a new single, a Coldplay cover and a medley while hitting impressive note after impressive note. She did her best to hype up the crowd, but it didn't help that rather than standing-room, the pit in front of the stage had been filled with chairs. Maybe it's because it was a Monday or maybe it was because some in the crowd didn't know her music, but most were content to bob along in their seats, singing occasionally. That is, until she pulled out "Unwritten" as her final song and the audience audibly joined in.
The second act of the night, Ohio rock/jam band O.A.R., had more luck in the hype department. A group known for their live performances, their set was loud and energetic -- especially trumpet player Jon Lampley whose grooving and shaking I, for one, couldn't stop watching. Nearly all of the eight musicians on stage -- bass, percussion, multiple guitars and keys, saxophone and trumpet -- were featured for a solo (or several), which earned enthusiastic responses and contributed to the exchange of energy between crowd and stage. A handful of people throughout the crowd seemed to be having the time of their lives watching O.A.R., singing every word and one group even holding signs. The rest of the crowd could sing along with the radio hits but it seems more appreciated the musicianship of the band despite a level of unfamiliarity with some of the tunes.
Just after 9 p.m., the staging revealed itself to be a giant jukebox -- with several semicircles of lights suspended over the stage and the video board in the center depicting the chosen record moving into place as Train emerged with their backs to the audience. Through animation, the glass of the jukebox shattered as the confetti canons at the edge of the stage burst over the crowd to the first notes of "Drink Up," the party anthem of Train's latest studio album. What followed was a cheerful, fan-pleasing romp between songs from the new album "a girl a bottle a boat" and favorite hits from across the group's nearly 20-year career. Monahan was generous with crowd interaction -- initiating more than one call-and-response, letting the audience sing a line here and there, taking selfies on phones tossed to the stage and addressing the audience regularly.
Bedingfield returned to perform "Bruises" as a lilting duet with Monahan and later in the set, lead singer Marc Roberge, Lampley and Jerry DePizzo (sax/guitar) of O.A.R. brought their energy to Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al." Besides an acoustic moment for "Marry Me" in the middle of the show, the rest of the set was the radio-friendly (summery, even?) sounds of Train nearly everyone in the audience was expecting -- and certainly hoping for. The majority of the crowd sang along with a majority of the tunes, with favorites "Meet Virginia," "Drive By," "Soul Sister" and newcomer "Play That Song" naturally eliciting some of the biggest reactions. For the encore, Monahan dedicated an emotional performance of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" to the group's late lead singer Chris Cornell, who passed away only last week, while a montage of photos showed the rocker on the video board. But of course, the evening ended on a high as Monahan took us on a trip through the Milky Way with the band's iconic track "Drops of Jupiter," and one last blast of confetti.
NAN What's Up on 05/26/2017
Print Headline: REVIEW: Train at the Walmart AMP