concert reviews

Train's Classic Tracks
Train at the Birchmere, Alexandria, VA, Tuesday 30 March 2004

If Pat Monahan weren't the lead singer for the Grammy-winning band Train, he'd probably be fronting a highly energetic classic-rock cover band. On Tuesday night he got to do both, as Train hit classic tunes from the Beatles' "Get Back" to Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle." On Aerosmith's "Dream On," Monahan demonstrated that his most impressive vocal quality is his astounding range: He solidly and comfortably hit notes that most men cannot, mimicking Steven Tyler's falsetto amid ecstatic screams from the audience.

This was the second of a three-night stint at the Birchmere as part of a club tour in which Train plays two sets each night with no opening band. The musicians pulled songs from across their decade-long career, including new tunes such as the rocking "Ordinary," which was penned for the "Spider-Man 2" soundtrack.

Although Monahan's energy was genuine, his dancing and interactions with the audience seemed almost rehearsed. "Would anyone like to dance with me?" he asked before lifting a beaming fan over the barricade for a slow dance during the trance-inducing "Mississippi." But his powerful voice made the stage antics easy to overlook, and whether he sang a cappella, with just an acoustic guitar, or backed by the entire five-man band, his voice remained strong over the course of the performance.

Train closed out the night with Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On," giving Monahan one last opportunity to impersonate his idols. As if a two-hour set weren't enough, exiting fans were given a parting gift: a CD of the night's first set, recorded from the sound board with crystal clarity.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 1 April 2004
.: Selected discography: My Private Nation (Train, 2003); Drops of Jupiter (Train, 2001); Train (Train, 1998).