For a group that first rose to fame during the final boom of the CD era, Train sure has made significant strides to stay relevant across nearly two decades. In the studio, the San Francisco-bred band regularly expands its sonic palette and continues to concoct some of the most insanely connective choruses, while in concert, Pat Monahan isn’t shy about snapping selfies, tossing out autographed T-shirts or leaping off the stage.
Train even let loose a bevy of beach balls come “Save Me, San Francisco,” a joyous moment only trumped by the sing-a-long “Hey Soul Sister” (easily this decade’s ultimate song of summer).
Along with Train’s most visually striking light show to date, all of those elements were present throughout the second of two sold out shows at Ravinia, which may as well be the players’ home away from home after countless appearances over the years. Although original material was once again the primary focus, Saturday’s edition found the troupe kicking off its tightly packed 90-minute set with a true to form take on Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”
The tribute was just one of the many made to departed influences, including Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” a nod to Glenn Frey via the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Bowie’s solo “Space Oddity” as the coda to the epic “Drops Of Jupiter.” Oddly enough, nothing came from the new “Train Does Led Zeppelin II,” though there was a preview of what’s coming next with “Play That Song,” which is basically an instantly memorable piano ballad framed around Hoagy Carmichael’s “Heart And Soul.”
However, that was the sole moment of unfamiliarity in a show otherwise filled with smashes, from the early days of “Meet Virginia” through the career-spanning likes of “Angel In Blue Jeans,” “Calling All Angels” and “Drive By.” Train even let loose a bevy of beach balls come “Save Me, San Francisco,” a joyous moment only trumped by the sing-a-long “Hey Soul Sister” (easily this decade’s ultimate song of summer).
Supporting singer/songwriter Andy Grammer ran a close second to that crown with his ubiquitous “Honey, I’m Good,” but came across as much more than a one moment wonder. In fact, he opened with the almost as huge “Keep Your Head Up,” wrapped with the celebratory “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah)” and displayed an unconventional mash-up of pop, country and soul throughout his high energy hour in between.
Grammer also demonstrated considerable instrumental dexterity, bouncing around the keyboard, guitar, trumpet and vocoder, while his four piece band exuded both a steady groove and stream of horseplay. Add in some playful choreography (surely inspired by his stint on “Dancing With The Stars”) and everyone on stage truly looked like they were having just as much fun as those who came early enough to catch the ascending star.
Upcoming concert highlights at Ravinia include Lauryn Hill (Sept. 1); Marty Stuart and Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (Sept. 2); Bonnie Raitt (Sept. 3); O.A.R. (Sept. 4); Classic Albums Live presents David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” (Sept. 9); “The Wizard of Oz” with Chicago Philharmonic (Sept. 10) and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II (Sept. 11). For additional details, visit Ravinia.org.