“This will be the only time we’ll play this song all year,” Train frontman Pat Monahan told the sizable crowd at the SMART Araneta Coliseum last Dec. 7.
Antsy fans started arguing among ourselves about which song it was going to be, but when the unmistakable sound of sleigh bells filled the air, everyone grinned sheepishly.
Of course it was going to be “Shake Up Christmas,” the band’s theme song for last year’s Coca-Cola holiday campaign; it made perfect sense, after all. There’s nothing like an upbeat yuletide song to put you in a merry mood, especially when it’s being performed live.
The San Francisco-based trio first performed live in Manila at the Alabang Town Center in June 2010. This comeback gig marked the band’s first full-length concert in Manila, with talks of a second tour after the release of their sixth studio album sometime next April.
Fresh from their Jakarta show, Monahan, guitarist Jimmy Stafford, and drummer Scott Underwood held an album-signing/meet-and-greet session at The Block in SM North Edsa upon their arrival, then engaged in good-natured banter with the press at The Crowne Plaza’s Opal Room hours before the concert.
The good ol’ Pinoy hospitality is one of the reasons they want to keep coming back to Manila. “They’re so thoughtful. As soon as we got here … there was all this food ready for us!” Underwood remarked with a grin. “Everyone is just so accommodating … It’s so easy to be here.”
Known for its catchy pop-rock tunes with some country inflections, Train first gained mainstream attention at the start of the decade with the unforgettable “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me),” which earned the band two Grammys.
After a three-year hiatus, the trio bounced back with their fifth album “Save Me, San Francisco,” topbilled by the happy-go-lucky love ditty “Hey, Soul Sister” that earned them multiple accolades, including a third Grammy for their live performance of the song.
After a warmup set by local favorite 6cyclemind, Train kicked off the 13-song set with “Parachute” and “If It’s Love,” two new singles from the latest album, “Save Me, San Francisco.” “Hold our cell phones up in the air and just be glad that we made it here alive,” Monahan sang with emphasis during “If It’s Love,” whipping out his own phone and taking several crowd shots, which he posted on the band’s Twitter account.
The song was actually written by Monahan as a thank-you song for their fans who have supported them throughout the years.
We have to give the wild-haired frontman props for his valiant attempts at speaking in Tagalog several times; getting a little tongue-tied didn’t deter him from saying, “Masaya kami makita kayo ulit sa Manila (We’re happy to see you again in Manila)!”
Earlier at the press conference, Stafford let it slip that they would be performing a song by a Filipino. That mystery artist turned out to be Journey’s vocalist Arnel Pineda; when Monahan invited a couple of girls onstage to sing “Don’t Stop Believin’” with him (he even acted as bag carrier for one), one girl surprised him—and everyone else—with her powerful Pineda-like vocals.
“Here’s your damn paper bag back,” the flabbergasted frontman said in a mock-sour voice, to the crowd’s amusement. He then proceeded to do a duet with her, and she matched him note for note all the way to the high end of “somewhere in the night.” Trained pro or not, the lucky girl certainly deserved her 15 seconds of fame.
Goodies and treats
The band threw goodies to the audience, including shirts, guitar picks, and even an actual guitar! Monahan picked several girls to come up onstage to be his “Trainettes” for the night (even though one guy in a pink shirt kept insisting he was included).
The best singer-dancer among them was awarded no less than Monahan’s own guitar, which he signed right then and there. They also performed older favorites like the late ’90s debut hit “Meet Virginia,” “Get To Me,” and “Calling All Angels” as a treat for fans from the “Jupiter” days.
While his bandmates tore through their instruments with ear-to-ear grins, Monahan danced and pranced across the stage while hitting the high notes with raw emotion. He even hopped off the stage and went all around the coliseum to take pictures with random fans while singing “Marry Me.”
“We’re married, Manila!” he announced while taking his own photo with a fan using the latter’s camera. And no, there were no actual marriage proposals made that night (or at least, none that was captured on camera).
“Hey, Soul Sister” was arguably the most popular song of the night; the band milked it for all it was worth, having made the Trainettes and the crowd sing several a cappella teasers before breaking into the full song. “Save Me, San Francisco” was a close second, with people happily yelling the “Oh, hell no!” part of the chorus each time.
But for old fans, the magic happened at the end, when the band capped off the night with the soul-stirring encore, “Drops of Jupiter.” The largely metaphorical lyrics may have baffled listeners for years, but for many, it was a journey to self-discovery—a story about reaching for the stars and broadening your horizons but never forgetting the loved ones you’ve left behind, and realizing that they will always be there to welcome you back with open arms no matter what.
That’s what the band is to Manila, what its music is to its fans. And the feeling is definitely mutual. “We’ve been to 35 countries in the last two years, and I want to say sincerely from all of us that this is our favorite place to come to,” Pat told the cheering crowd before the band took their final bow.
Great band, great crowd, great vibes. And, of course, great songs. For Pinoy music lovers, the holiday season couldn’t get any merrier than this.
“Train Live in Manila 2011” was brought to you by DAYLY Entertainment.