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    Stainmaster Finch Platte's Avatar
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    Nov 2003

    Refurbished Train warms to small but wild house at Du Nord.

    I'm glad they kept the drummer. I like the bass the new guy is playing, too. Nice aura the guitarist is giving off...

    "I'm leaving, coz I hate that damn song!"

    From the SF Chronicle

    Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic
    Thursday, February 5, 2004

    At sound check in the empty Cafe Du Nord, Train worked out some kinks in an old song called "The Highway,'' never recorded, that half the current band had never heard before. The bass player puzzled over what the keyboardist was playing, and the band tried to smooth out a couple of rough turnarounds. It didn't sound exactly ready for public consumption.

    But two hours later, the six-man group came out blazing, opening the show with a blistering version of the lost Train classic that few of the fans packed into the basement club even knew existed. "We learn new Train material and new covers every night,'' said lead singer Pat Monahan. "We didn't learn a new cover tonight, but we have bags of them. Maybe tomorrow we'll learn something by the Police -- haven't learned one of theirs yet.''

    The Grammy-winning, multi-platinum rock band opened a sold-out five-night residency Tuesday at the 250-capacity upper Market Street club, usually home to up-and-coming alternative rock and folk acts. As in similar engagements at small rooms in Atlanta and Chicago, Train is playing two long sets, performing as many as 30 songs in an evening. They're playing every song they know over the course of these five-day runs.

    It would make a better story if the veteran Cafe Du Nord had played a crucial role in Train's own struggling days, when the band played every dump in the Bay Area they could. But such was not the case.

    "Never been in the place before, myself,'' said Monahan. "Our guitarist saw Grant Lee Buffalo here, though.''

    With smash-hit records like "Drops of Jupiter'' and the recent "Calling All Angels,'' Train could be pulling down big money playing theaters and arenas across the country. Instead the band chose to meet its most rabid fans under more intimate circumstances.

    "We can play our repertoire," Monahan said before the show, "which we really haven't in however many years since we hit radio. There's a tendency to play for the majority of the room when you've got songs on the radio. We know that everybody in the room tonight wants to hear whatever we play.''

    Monahan, who was wearing an iridescent purplish jacket and trendy painted jeans, is an intense, compact performer who recognized old friends in the audience ("Glad you made it''), his day-old beard and studiously disarrayed short hair giving him a kind of deliciously decadent look.

    The crowd may have been small, but it couldn't have been more enthusiastic, squealing and screaming, snapping photos and shooting videos. They sang along to the Train hits, carrying entire choruses by themselves, and they sang along to the Lou Reed and Led Zeppelin covers. Train also handed everybody a CD of a live recording of the first set on their way out.

    "This is soul fulfillment,'' said Monahan. "When you're on the road playing an hour every night opening for some other act, you never walk away saying, 'Man, we kicked ass.' Tonight we're playing for 200 people, and I guarantee we will look at each other over many moments on that stage.''

    These soul-satisfying club gigs come at a time when Train has only half its original members, after dumping the local managers that got the band its recording contract in favor of a big-time East Coast firm, and the follow-up album to its 2001 blockbuster, "Drops of Jupiter," is not necessarily performing up to expectations.

    "We've sold 800,000,'' Monahan said. "That's practically shipping platinum. We're looking at a third single, and the record company's goal is 2 million. I think we can do that, even in this day and age.''

    Still, Monahan views this as a crucial transition for the band. "We're starting over,'' he said. "We've got to make sure we're doing this the right way."

    Vocalist-guitarist Rob Hotchkiss, who started the band with Monahan a little more than 10 years ago, left the group during the recording last year of "My Private Nation,'' reportedly tired of life on the road, although he made it clear in interviews that he was no fan of the lavishly orchestrated ballad that vaulted the band to the top of the charts.

    Another original member, bassist Charlie Colin, was fired from the band last fall and replaced by John Colt of the Black Crowes, whose hit "Hard to Handle'' (originally an Otis Redding song) Train has been playing on the club tour.

    Train has drafted guitarist Tony Lopacinski of alternate-rockers Earth to Andy and added keyboardist Brandon Bush. "This is the version of the band people should see,'' Monahan said.

    What Monahan hopes to do is lose the fickle Top 40 followers and nurture his deeper connection with more passionate fans. He sees these downsized nightclub engagements as a door to the future, a route to longevity. Train is already planning more runs in Nashville, Birmingham and New York, and Monahan contemplates returning to a slightly larger room in San Francisco -- say Slim's.

    "I'd like to try this exact idea in 5,000-seat rooms,'' Monahan said. "Two sets, three hours. I don't know how many CDs we can burn.''
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Refurbished Train warms to small but wild house at Du Nord.-dd_train05.jpg  
    Last edited by Finch Platte; 02-09-2004 at 04:59 PM. Reason: Celery raw develops the jaw. Celery stewed is more quietly chewed.

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