red lights


Low key on record,
but more steam at show

Train/ Brandi Carlile
Chicago Theatre
Chicago, IL
April 15, 2006
Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile

Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis

There's no way to overlook the string of hits Train has had since "Meet Virginia" cruised up the charts and that public support is further evidenced in the size of venues the band is playing these days. Though one of its early trips through town was opening for Ben Folds Five at the Riviera, followed by years on the House of Blues circuit, 2006 has seen the group graduate to the Chicago Theatre. TrainThe venue was packed with faithful who seemed to know most every word to the group's catalogue- radio and otherwise- though the experience was quite different than what's regularly resounded from the airwaves.

As popular as all of Train's singles have been, the challenge in most all of their familiar material is to break beyond the middle of the road. Despite the success of sales and chart positions, the gang has largely built its stock on somewhat pedestrian and squeaky clean selections that fit comfortably in that three to four minute zone, straddling the lines between pop, modern rock and adult contemporary. Of course, that's exactly what most programmers are looking for these days and while the results can be pleasantly safe, they often fail to reach risky sonic heights.

But when it comes to this year's tour in support of For Me It's You, Train exposed a side rarely seen on radio or record and allowed the more aggressive qualities to shine through, complete with some improvisation and updated arrangements that made much of their material anything but dull and predictable.Train It was a pleasant surprise indeed that was cued by early set exploration of "Meet Virginia," pumped up with a mixture of classic rock and white bred soul that soared miles beyond the original. The same prototype followed for additional points of recognition: the smoky "She's On Fire," the grimy "Calling All Angels," the melodic ballad "I Am" and a true to form acoustic rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" (featuring opener Brandi Carlile).

New material connected with less immediacy but still possessed the undercurrent of in-concert intrigue. Aside from the stagnant recent single "Cab," cuts like "Skyscraper" and "Give Myself To You" really kicked up some dust. Train also rounded the bases in a fury, rounding out the evening with chilling "Drops of Jupiter" and an uncharacteristic cover of Aerosmith's "Dream On." Not only would one never expect the somewhat safe players to pull out the ballsy flashback, but lead singer Patrick Monahan delivered Steven Tyler's part with near bull's eye authenticity.

Newcomer and Columbia Records label mate Brandi Carlile opened with her cheerful acoustic rock and folk but was met with mostly indifference by a crowd searching for their seats. At first she appeared shy and soft spoken, but after settling in with the first song, the twenty-three year old began hitting her stride. As the short set progressed, the youngster belted out a series of notes with such power and beauty that she echoed Jeff Buckley, especially on the original "What Can I Say" (off last year's self-titled CD) and her late great hero's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Last year Rolling Stone magazine named her an "artist to watch," and though it took time for her to gain the Chicago Theatre's attention, it turned out to be a befitting title.

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