25 March 2015
Reviewed by Katy Nettleton
Train, supported by Natasha North and Magic Numbers at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.
The Grammy Award-winning band will start proceedings at The O2 arena in London on 25 March 2015. They will continue their Bulletproof Picasso tour with shows throughout March at Birmingham’s NIA, Manchester Arena and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.
The San Francisco band Train released Bulletproof Picasso, their seventh studio album, earlier this year that was produced by Butch Walker and includes the lead single Angel In Blue Jeans. The album follows 2012’s California 37.
Train will be supported by the British band The Magic Numbers during their UK dates, who released their fourth album Alias earlier this year.
Over the years, Train have sold over ten million albums worldwide and hits include Hey Soul Sister, Meet Virginia, Calling All Angels and Drive By.
Getting to Birmingham Barclaycard Arena is quite straightforward: once on the city centre ring road for Birmingham follow signs for the NIA and Sealife Centre. The signs are on each traffic lights, roundabout and roads: so chances of getting lost for long are minimal (as we experienced!). Once at the arena there is ample parking (although the North car park has a very low roof, therefore if you have a roof box on your car, I would advise going to the other car parks or else you are constantly worrying about hitting one of the lower parts in this maze of a car park! Parking is £6.50 for all event traffic and you are able to pay by card, cash or over the phone: which reduces the queue length at the ticket machines. From the car park there is plenty of signage to the arena. Although, anyone going to the arena soon, please bear in mind there a road closures near the venue after 10pm, which means a longer route to get back to the motorways or major A roads out of the City.
Once at the venue there was limited queue’s as each set of doors were open and allowing people to enter (those with tickets) at the nearest entrance to their block: which again made it easy to find out where you were standing/seating and also on a cold spring night it was a light relief we didn’t need to stand outside any longer than necessary!
When we stepped inside the venue is impressive with regards to cleanliness, good signage and availability of refreshments. The prices were not extravagant with soft drinks at £2 each and chips from the Fish and Chip Shop at £3 (which I would recommend!) for the refreshments and the merchandise stands too were not too expensive with postcards/programmes from £5 and t-shirts from £13.
We were in block 3, lower tier, which with the way the staging was set up meant we have a side view of the stage and performance. This was not a problem for Natasha North and Magic Numbers as they were in front of the side screens; however when Train came onto stage they had set up slightly behind the screens which meant we were struggling to see the band and Patrick Monahan; but as there was seating left on the higher tier we were able to move there to see. This made a big difference as the angles meant we could see all the stage.
Right for the music; if you are reading this review it’s probably because either you like Natasha North, Magic Numbers or Train and looking at going to a concert. If this is the case you will not be disappointed! The staging was simple with just the band set up and 2 side screens, the lighting was brilliant and added to the atmosphere and was perfectly synced with the music. The volume was good as you could hear the words in the songs, however at times it did feel like that the band music was hitting the walls and reflecting back into the room; which (personally) I felt was a bit loud for the venue!
Prior to getting tickets for Train I had not heard of Natasha North, and after a quick google I understood her type of music and could see how it would complement the concert, although not necessarily the person I would have initially thought would be supporting. When we arrived she was already singing, and she was brilliant! The song choices were good, with many that the audience had heard and was singing and dancing along to. She looked comfortable on stage and was able to get even those (including me) who hadn’t heard the songs before singing along at the chorus, with everyone fully enjoying the experience.
After a short interval Magic Numbers came on, and they didn’t disappoint. Again, I wasn’t fully aware of their music (I am not a music buff and just enjoy different genres and types of music and appreciate art in various forms) but I knew 5 out of 7 of their songs in the set! I was worried before that I wouldn’t know the words and enjoy their music, when in actual fact I was downloading their album this morning as I wanted to hear more. Their voices complemented each other really well and they obviously were enjoying being on stage together and were just having fun, and in return so did the audience. The audience were joining in with dancing, and singing along (as were we) and appreciating their music, the lead male, Romeo Stodart, had a very distinctive tone to his voice, and one that made you want to listen to the words he was singing and not just the melody. The backing music and lighting again was impressive even though simple and they used the whole stage meaning even us (who at this point were still sat in the lower tier) could see them up close and not just through the screens.
Now for the main event; TRAIN. Train came on to the stage around TIME, and impressed from their first song. The lead singer (Patrick Monahan) roamed around the stage, singing out their famous songs including Drops of Jupiter, hey Soul Sisters, and (and those not as famous to the non-Train followers as myself). I enjoy their music, the lyrics and can see the passion behind the band for their music to be heard, and understood. To put is shortly it was brilliant! The backing band did sometimes get a bit louder than the singer; making it hard to hear the lyrics but that didn’t affect the audience who were all singing and dancing away. Train, did the usual (for concerts) took selfies with the audience using their cameras whilst singing and threw t-shirts into the audience, but what I did like there was no break in performance. There was limited “chit chat” and more music (which is a bug bear for me, as when I go to a concert I like to hear the music and not necessarily the band having a chat with the audience about the weather! Or the city they are visiting) which I personally, appreciated. I am not going to list the song list as this would spoil the fun for the audience! My only slight thoughts were that at one point it did seem like the keyboard was in a different key to Patrick; although this may just be being overly critical! Some of my friends were also at the concert and this was their 3rd Train Concert, and have followed them to Dublin in 2013 and their thoughts were: “a good varied set, with old and new songs and as usual an enjoyable evening, the support acts chosen are always good and compliment the band well”.
The show culminated with all 3 acts getting together and singing a song. This was fantastic, and although obviously stages, did look like it was off-the-cuff which again, helped the audience see the fun and enjoyment the bands were having playing for a live audience.
Overall, even if you are not a follower of Train, Natasha North or Magic Numbers but you appreciate music: this is a concert for you. I wouldn’t hesitate at going to another gig or concert, and would travel further afield to see them now. All 3 performances got the audience singing and dancing along, there was audience participation (but kept to a minimum) and most of all: everyone including the acts were having fun.
Everyone was so encouraging of the audience making it a feel-great performance, leaving everyone in a great mood leaving the concert. So glad to have gone and so happy to have witnessed such wholehearted spirit in a concert as a whole.
As a lasting thought, from someone who works with charities I do think it is good that a successful band make public pledges of support to charities (large and small) and that Train provides details on their website about a local charity they support and reflect on their past to help others less fortunate.
For more information and tour dates visit www.savemesanfrancisco.com.
To book tickets visit www.livenation.co.uk.