There is something magical about going to a good concert. It moves you, you feel good about life, you remember why you bought that CD or downloaded that song, it reaches you in places that mere words fail to reach. I’ve been going to concerts since I was very small indeed, beginning with community concerts of a classical nature which my Mom took me to as a child. I remember going to see the great violinist Isaac Stern, who was when he caught me and my friend Jackie Campbell talking during one of his first half numbers. Please don’t tell my Mom
On a cool August night, on the last night of the Kentucky State Fair, my sister Laura and I went to see Maroon 5 and Train. I’ve listened to plenty of their CDs, read the reviews of this concert, and was ready to go. I had my earplugs squarely in place, as the concert was in the rapidly aging Freedom Hall (on the grounds where the State Fair is held) which has a flat interior roof, which makes the acoustics bounce all over the place, and in short contains the sound and makes the concert seem much louder. I’ve been to hundreds of such concerts and I still have my ear drums thanks only to being careful. Let me just say that Maroon 5 played at a volume that could have shattered all the glass in the Crystal Cathedral. Train was more thoughtful. Their volume could have just stopped a train. At what point do bands realize they have an ethical responsibility not to impair the hearing of teeny boppers? And boy were there a lot of the latter at this concert, as Adam Levine, as they say in the trade these days, is ‘fur sure HOT’.
The concert began promptly at 8 p.m. (should have started at 7. With teeny boppers in the audience and Monday being a school day, they should have been more considerate). It began with, wait for it…a warm up band, a certain Matt Nathanson. Now he wasn’t bad, except his Momma needed to wash his mouth out with some soap once in a while. but memo to major acts—- when you have two main attractions on one bill, you absolutely positively do not need a warm up band. I hadn’t heard one of those in years. Well that went on until 8:35. Then of course the roadies had to change the stage. That took until 9:05. Now in the various reviews of this concert, most of them say Maroon 5 would be first up to bat, but some complained they didn’t play long enough, though they played al their hits. That didn’t happen in Louisville. Train came on first, and their lead singer Pat Monahan explained that the night before he was scheduled to sing in his hometown in Pa. but he had to cancel for the first time ever— throat issues. Oh, no. Well, apparently what he meant was he had a choice, and he didn’t want to let a capacity crowd in Louisville down, so he saved his voice for us. Thanks Pat, it was worth the wait to hear you. This band has been around since 1994 and they have some of the finest traditional rock albums of the last twenty years. They are in various ways a traditional San Francisco band.
Actually, as it turned out, I was glad Train went first as we got to see their entire set, and an encore (‘Drops of Jupiter’). Their guitar player (from Nashville) is excellent, and Pat is a real showman. Not only did he sing his way up and down the main aisles in the middle of the set (‘Marry Me’) accompanied by security of course, but he invited about 50 ladies on stage (all about to wet their pants at the chance) to sing ‘She’s on Fire’ with him. He’s a real crowd pleaser, and he knows how to get the crowd to sing along with him on the choruses. The set included lots of familiar tunes (Parachute, Soul Sister, Sweet Virginia, the basic well known ones). I could have used at least another 30 minutes of Train, as they are top notch performers. They even offered us snatches of cover tunes (Blondie’s Heart of Glass, U 2, and even Zeps a Whole Lotta Love). It was 10:15 by the time they were done.
And then it took until almost 11 p.m. straight up for the roadies to get all the equipment on stage for Maroon 5. Note to Adam. Your core fans out there should have been in bed by then. Tomorrow is definitely a school day. Nevertheless, Maroon 5 came on like a locomotive (can’t call them a train in this case) and blew us all back into our seats, or onto our feet, depending on our posture. Interestingly, the visuals for Train (with their projection screen behind them) were better than for Maroon 5, although the latter did give us the traditional mirror ball experience with light going in all directions round and round Freedom Hall. Maroon 5 is a tight band, and Levine’s impossibly high voice was right on pitch. Pat has a much more traditional rock tenor voice than Adam, but in size and stature they are much the same— both look like they weigh about 150 ringing wet without an ounce of fat, and they are both energizer bunnies (but Pat is definitely the more fun and humorous showman).
Understandably, Maroon 5 approached their set like someone was burning down the building, by which I mean they raced from one song to the next to the next. I guess they knew the witching hour was coming. I did notice a bunch of older fogies taking their young kids home about 11:15. The concert was to continue well beyond then. Like Train, Maroon 5 aimed to please, starting out with the brand new hit ‘Moves like Jagger’ (ummm, Pat is closer on that score than Adam), and running through both older (Song for Jane stuff) and newer hits. One thing is pretty unmistakable. Train is a much more traditional rock band. Maroon 5 much more of a modern synth-pop dance groove band with two busy synthesizer players. It is interesting that both Pat and Adam become auxiliary guitar players during their sets, and both can play pretty well. On the whole, Train has a wider variety of types of songs (Hey Soul Sister is a ukulele number like McCartney’s ‘Tonight’ number) whereas most of the Maroon 5 songs have the same sort of mesmerizing beat and sonic texture. If this was a show us your scope and variety of songs contest, Train wins, hands down.
The crowd seemed to be well pleased with the whole experience (and clearly there was a near capacity crowd, which was about the same when my wife and I went and saw Heart and Journey in the same venue at the same fair two summers ago). As for me, my sister had to catch a 7 a.m. plane from Lex back to Jacksonville and then go to work. We got to bed about 1 a.m. after driving home from Louisville. At some point it may dawn on me…. I am getting too old for this sort of shenanigans….. but not just yet