Train will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, and based on Saturday night’s performance at Starlight Theatre, it appears the band isn’t going away any time soon.
More than 6,000 fans showed up Saturday, and they got their money’s worth: an evening filled with familiar songs and a warm, communal spirit.
It all started with the opener, Michael Franti and Spearhead, who spent an hour splashing sunny, hippie vibes all around the amphitheater. Few performers can rouse a crowd into a sing-along/dance-along mood as quickly and effortlessly as Franti does.
He declared Starlight “the most beautiful amphitheater in America,” then spent much of his set exploring it. He sang from the back rows, the middle rows and the side aisles. During one number, he coaxed a guy into skipping along with him across the venue and back. It was all very genuine and engaging.
Their set list included “I Don’t Wanna Go,” “Life Is Better With You,” “All Night Long Ain’t Long Enough” and “Say Hey,” which included a chorus of about 80 children pulled from the crowd.
Franti is no easy act to follow, but this was Train’s crowd, and it kept the mood kindled for most of its 90-minute set.
The band opened with “Calling All Angels,” an easy-listening ballad that bridges the gap between Toad the Wet Sprocket and Coldplay. Train has plenty of those darts in its quiver, and it fired off most of them: “Meet Virginia,” “Drops of Jupiter,” “Hey, Soul Sister” and “Bruises,” from the band’s latest album, “California 37.”
On that one, lead singer Pat Monahan was joined by country singer Ashley Monroe, his duet partner on the recorded version. She then performed the honky-tonker “Weed Instead of Roses,” a track off her excellent “Like a Rose” album.
Train can mix it up, too, and deliver some uptempo numbers with rock and horn-fed funk in their bones, like “Drive By,” which is catchy in a Sugar Ray way, “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” and the joyous tribute to the band’s hometown, “Save Me, San Francisco.”
The group appended “Free” with bits of two Beatles songs, “We Can Work It Out” and “All You Need Is Love,” both of which started some hearty singing-along.
Monahan worked the big crowd, too. He spent most of “Marry Me” trotting around the theater, dispensing quick hugs and high-fives. During “Mermaid,” the stage was again filled with young girls, but this time they were dressed in mermaid-ish costumes. Monahan gave the tiniest one a spot upfront and center and a few moments to commandeer the microphone.
They closed with “The Weight,” the Band song that is on the verge of becoming the most-covered song in rock history. Monroe and Franti emerged from backstage and joined in, sharing lead vocals with Monahan. As it had throughout the show, most of the big crowd joined in, too. It was that kind of night, start to finish.