Say what you want about Maroon 5 and Train, but there is no denying that they certainly know how to put on a show.
Their summer-long tour stopped in Toronto, at the Molson Amphitheatre, on Monday, August 22 for four hours of pure rocking and rolling. Though Gavin DeGraw was scheduled to appear as the opening act, he was replaced by Nikki Jean due to his recent (and bizarre) mugging and getting hit by a cab in New York City.
Though I had been quite excited to see Gavin DeGraw perform, Nikki Jean, clad in a bedazzled blue mini-dress, was an excellent replacement — alternately sassy and sweet, with a great sense of humour and a smooth, soulful voice, she kept the crowd entertained for her allotted half hour. Given her shamelessly silly stage presence, and ability to break down a quasi-rap without so much as a stutter, she actually came across as a slightly classier version of Nicki Minaj.
Maroon 5 kicked off their half of the show just after 8 p.m. with their latest hit, Moves Like Jagger, which got the crowd up and cheering right away. Following with Harder To Breathe, which began with the opening of Kanye West’s Power, it was clear that the set list was going to be essentially devoid of mellow songs.
However, when it came to crowd pleasers, it was clear that Wake Up Call, featuring Adam Levine on the electric guitar, Stutter, and This Love received the largest reception. But it was Won’t Go Home Without You that stole the show for me.
The band was, unquestionably, at their best, opening the show with four or five songs that faded into each other, with no break for water. Levine knew how to get the audience giggling, drawing laughter from the crowd when he admitted his biggest concern was getting up on stage and belting out one of Train’s songs. “That’s the problem with touring with Train,” he said, before beginning the band’s encore performance of She Will Be Loved. “I get their shit stuck in my head!”
He then proceeded to “remix” his final song with a riff of Train’s Hey, Soul Sister.
Though I knew very little of Train’s songs, barring two songs, I was wowed by their half of the concert. Including If It’s Love, a sweet but upbeat number that included a lyrics video on the amphitheatre’s big screen, in their first three songs was one of their best decisions, resulting in a sing-along that even included audience members who didn’t know the words (i.e. me).
Pat Monahan, Train’s frontman, was delightfully unconventional and unexpectedly funny, inviting “Train-ettes” up onto the stage to sing with him (and then poke fun of them afterwards), and making his way through the audience during the band’s slowest and most beautiful song, Marry Me. He was even game enough to engage in a salsa dance with his only female bandmate.
Save Me, San Francisco, the title track of their newest album, and their encore performance of Drops of Jupiter, were the undisputed top performances. (Let’s face it, having Pat Monahan direct you to yell “oh hell no!” is going to be the best moment.) However, there was no denying the collective anticipation to hear Hey, Soul Sister (and the spirited sing-along that ensued when it was finally performed).
I have no trouble saying that this was the best concert I have ever attended. If you have the opportunity to see either band, I suggest doing it.
(This article was published in the Sept. 2011 issue of the Ryerson Free Press.)