Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Saturday, August 4
When the Indiana State Fair comes around, the accompanying emotions are typically festivity and joy. They might be tempered a bit this year because of last year's tragedy, but the August 4 concert by Andy Grammer, Mat Kearney and Train as part of the fair certainly did its part to lift everyone's spirits.
Andy Grammer's opening set was really enjoyable, mostly because he was obviously giddy and his excitement was contagious. It was his first night on the tour, and he was clearly thrilled to be opening for a band as prolific as Train. Grammer naturally played his three singles, "Keep Your Head Up," "Fine By Me" and "Miss Me," and he interspersed them with other catchy tracks from his self-titled album, including "The Pocket," "Ladies" and "Slow." He did a great job of playing to the crowd (no pun intended); in the middle of "Fine By Me" he launched into a cover of Gym Class Heroes' "Stereo Love" which got everyone singing along, he did a little bit of beatboxing and later got a few catcalls as he took off his shirt to change into a Pacers jersey (with "Grammer" on the back) that he'd been given.
After such a high-energy set, Mat Kearney's performance was, for me at least, a bit of a letdown. While I enjoyed hearing some of my favorite songs of his, like "Ships in the Night" and "Hey Mama," and ones that I'd forgotten about, including "Closer to Love" and "Nothing Left to Lose," I just didn't feel like his performance had as much charisma as Grammer's did. Even a freestyle rap with references to Reggie Miller and Peyton Manning, as well as a cover of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," couldn't quite redeem him.
Train's set got everyone fired up for all the right reasons; from the time the train whistle blew to announce their entrance to the end of the encore, so many exciting things happened that I barely know where to begin. They began the concert with "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" and "This'll Be My Year," both off their sixth and newest album California 37. During the next song, "If It's Love," lead singer Pat Monahan took pictures of every part of the crowd with his phone, making everyone feel included and ensuring that everyone in the audience had a chance of finding themselves in one when he later posted them on Twitter.
The band then paid tribute to the songs that got them where they are today and began a sequence of their older hits. They began with "Meet Virginia" and then, after a performance of the funk-inspired "I Got You" from their fifth album Save Me, San Francisco, segued into a medley that included their very first single "Free," "She's on Fire" and "When I Look to the Sky" among others. They ended the sequence with "Calling All Angels," mixed with the chorus from the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
The next few songs made use of heavy crowd involvement. For "Save Me, San Francisco," Monahan grabbed a video camera to show the crowd what they looked like as they screamed along with the lyrics "Oh, hell no!" on the big screen, then tossed beach balls out for the audience to play with. (At last year's show, they had a slideshow of Indiana landmarks that they played during the end of the song; I wish they'd done that this year as well, but that's about as nitpicky as I'll get). For "Mermaid" from California 37, Monahan brought a few little girls up from the crowd to dance along while he sang and played the saxophone, then for "Bruises," the newest single from California 37, he brought up another few girls that had won a video contest on Twitter.
I'm pretty sure someone actually proposed during Train's performance of "Marry Me;" I was on the opposite side of the fieldhouse so I couldn't really see, but I heard cheering, and at one point Monahan stopped to ask "Did someone just say yes?" If it's true, congratulations to the couple! The band followed with a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People" as well as their own hits "Hey Soul Sister" (which was mixed with the last verses of fun.'s "We Are Young") and "Drive By." The encore consisted of the title track off California 37, the iconic "Drops of Jupiter" and "Sing Together," the latter of which is also from California 37. During the last song, Monahan brought two little boys wearing Colts jerseys and gave them a signed guitar, claiming "This is the future, right?" to thunderous applause. To make things even cuter, the boys (unprompted, from what I could see) started plucking the guitar strings. That image sums up the night - heartwarming, all-inclusive and fun for everyone.
It's hard to believe that Train has been together for 15 years, as the material they produce continues to sound new, fresh and exciting. I've noticed that even if I don't like a song of theirs on CD or the radio, once I hear it live, my opinion undoubtedly changes. They know how to put on a great show that keeps everyone entertained and is guaranteed to make you fall in love with them all over again.