Concert Review: Train at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre

Last night I took the train (well, BART) to Train. They played at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre, an open-air venue modeled on the ancient Greek amphitheaters.

I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat, which affords many pros such as a good view that is usually uninterrupted. The con of such a seat is the fact that people do try to crowd the stage and so sometimes stand in front of you, but the event crew was pretty good about clearing them regularly.

The first act was Andy Grammer, whose "Fine By Me" was one of radio's summer staples. His new single "Miss Me" isn't bad, either, and he did a solid job of attempting to get the crowd worked up for the coming acts. I've said it before: it's a hard job being the opening act because most of the seats are still empty, which can seem a bit disheartening. Grammer didn't let it get him down, though, so kudos to him.

After that, the somewhat better known Mat Kearney took the stage. His set was about twice as long as Grammer's; he has at least twice as many recognizable songs, after all. Kearney, too, turned in a solid and satisfying set and appeared to genuinely enjoy himself. By this point the amphitheater was pretty full—Train had sold the place out.

The main draw hit the stage just shy of 9:00 p.m. to much rejoicing from their "hometown groupies." Truth be told, the audience was a wide mix of people who remember Train from their college days (I count among these) and the new teeny-boppers who like that song about all the ways the girlfriend dies. (I'll admit it's a catchy song, and was a good choice as the opening number.)

Now, I saw Train in August 2011, back up in Massachusetts, when "Save Me, San Francisco" was their big hit. I never thought at that point the next time I'd see the band I'd be in San Francisco. Something surreal about that.

I was a little sad that, due to sheer volume, Train reduced some of their older songs to a medley. "Free" and "She's On Fire" were therefore shortened and blended into a number of other songs.

Train at Berkeley, 28 September 2012

In truth, Train played a relatively short set, ending around 10:30 or so (including encore). But they were nonetheless crowd pleasing, hitting all the highlights of their current hits and old favorites. For a lot of the older songs, they hardly had to sing at all because the audience did most of the work for them. (This turned out to be a good thing when, at one point in the show, singer Pat Monahan had trouble with his mic.)

Both times I've seen Train play, they've shown a knack for fun with a touch of spectacle that leaves fans happy at the end. For the money, then, I'd say they are one of the best acts to see live. Well worth the train ride, the walk, and the chill September air when you can go home with a warm feeling.

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