Maroon 5 delight in Mansfield with Train

A review of Maroon 5, Train at the Comcast Center on August 13, 2011

, Contributing Writer

Professionalism was at a premium Saturday night as Maroon 5 and Train took the stage at the Comcast Center as a part of their co-headlining summer tour. Both bands have plenty of experience, Maroon 5 with almost a decade and Train more than fifteen years, and it showed. Both Grammy Award winners featured great lead vocalists, fantastic instrumentalists, full light shows and a whole host of fans in the audience. Nary a curse word was mentioned other than lyrically, and there were plenty of fun moments and sing-alongs. But when it came down to it, Maroon 5 was the band that came out on top – a surprise that few were expecting.

Of the two headliners, Maroon 5 took the stage first, and did so in style, beginning with their latest hit “Moves Like Jagger”. Lead singer Adam Levine wiggled across the stage, dancing throughout the entire show as his extraordinarily high voice sang the group’s latest single.

Levine was the biggest question of the night. Recently becoming an A-List celebrity in his own right as a judge/mentor on NBC’s “The Voice”, the opportunities for his ego to grow have been enormous as of late. But if the singer’s fame has gone to his head, it certainly didn’t show on stage. Certainly it was not the same Adam Levine that this reporter saw at UMass Amherst back in the spring of ’05 with a large hole in his pants and little to no stage movement. Yet the band has a whole has improved enormously over the years, and their frontman appeared gracious and appreciative of his fellow band members, even attempting at one point to get drummer Matt Flynn’s daughter to come out on stage for her 8th Birthday (she wasn’t having it).

The fourteen-song set was spread out fairly evenly over the group’s three studio albums, playing all the classics from Song’s About Jane while mixing in It Won’t Be Soon Before Long hits and several popular numbers off their latest release, Hands All Over. The focus was on the music, with only a few moments of silliness (a mention of Levine’s love of “grass” when talking to those on the lawn, holding a pillow a fan threw on stage in honor of their song “Never Gonna Leave This Bed”). The band rocked out, with killer guitar solos from both guitarist James Valentine and, on the stellar new track “Stutter”, Levine himself.

It was the older songs that pleased the crowd the most, from the swaying of arms of “This Love” to the final song of their encore, “She Will Be Loved”. To the “34 smart guys” in the audience of mainly females sitting through the romantic number, Levine quipped, “You may not like Maroon 5, but you like odds”. After their performance Saturday night, though, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan in that audience who didn’t like Maroon 5.

They were a hard act to follow, and despite putting on a pretty great show, Train fell a little bit flat. Beginning with train sounds that led into “Parachute” off of the band’s latest album, Save Me, San Francisco, it was clear that the biggest difference between the two groups was not talent vocally or instrumentally, but rather that lead singer Pat Monahan’s dance moves were much jerkier compared to Adam Levine’s. The man didn’t stay still for one instant, in constant motion as he moved from new songs into Train classics, asking the crowd “You remember this one?” before launching into “Meet Virginia”.

That slightly frenzied energy carried over into other aspects of the show. An attempt to be interactive turned into a mess when Monahan called a large group of girls from the audience on to the stage. The “Trainettes” were to sing backup vocals for “She’s On Fire”, but the whole experience took a decent amount of time away from the group’s show and wasn’t that entertaining for those who weren’t up there.

The strangest part of the show by far, though, was the middle. Despite an extensive catalogue that includes five studio albums, Train only played ten of their own songs and chose instead to do a section of mixed covers, including parts of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and a full-length version of Rihanna’s epic “Umbrella”. In the middle of it all, between all the interesting instrumentals (a cello, a block, a shaker, an acoustic guitar, etc.) Monahan, sporting shirt change number X, did a sort of tango with the backup vocalist and cellist. Between the costume changes (however minor they may have been), the dance, and the covers, it was beginning to feel a bit more like a Taylor Swift concert than a rock show.

But of course, classic Train made a comeback just in time for the show’s ending. After traipsing through the crowd singing “Marry Me”, Monahan declared “We’re married! And that means it’s time to party”, before launching into their mega single “Hey, Soul Sister”. A three-song encore included the similarly major hit “Drops of Jupiter” as well as a speech thanking the audience for coming and naming it the best show of the tour thus far and a shout-out to Gavin DeGraw (who was scheduled to open the show until he was violently attacked earlier in the week, forcing him to cancel dates and leading to PJ Morton taking his place at the Mansfield date). Finally, with a brief rendition of “This Ain’t Goodbye”, the band bid adieu to the crowd and the night was over.

Overall, both bands gave great, skilled performances. Maroon 5 just happened to have a more musically focused show prepared, and it came off as a more solid headlining act than Train’s highly fan-driven set. Had the acts been reversed, perhaps the concert would have made slightly more sense in terms of flow. But hey, you can’t complain too much when two solid bands give two successful sets to well over 10,000 screaming fans.

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