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Train seeks 'natural progression' to become a great live-performance band

| Thursday, April 20, 2006

They've won Grammy Awards, sold albums in platinum-plated numbers. But Train's lead singer, Erie native Pat Monahan, isn't satisfied.

"Now, it's time to break through as a live performance band," Monahan says in advance of the group's date tonight at the A.J. Palumbo Center. "Which I think inevitably happens to any band that I consider to be great and last a long time. That's just a natural progression."

Train seems to be on track for that sort of status. Formed in San Francisco in 1994, the group slowly built a following via extensive touring, opening for the likes of the Counting Crows and Barenaked Ladies. Three years later, the album, "Drops of Jupiter," which yielded a single of the same name, has sold more than 1 million units.

But to be viable in an age in which musical choices are abundant and consumers seem ever ready to jettison yesterday's favorite in favor of tomorrow's promise, a band needs more than hits. That's why Monahan is so intent in putting the band across as a live act; and that's why new additions Johnny Colt, the ex-Black Crowes bassist, and keyboardist Brandon Bush, who has performed with John Mayer and Shawn Mullins, are seen as critical additions. They join founding members Monahan, Jimmy Stafford (guitars) and Scott Underwood (drums), but their influence first took hold the during the sessions for the new CD, "For Me, It's You," arguably the band's most cohesive album.

Although credits are not listed on the release -- "Because we feel like we're such a strong unit, we decided to keep credits off the album and individuality at a distance," Monahan says -- Colt and Bush made significant contributions that perceptibly altered Train's sound.

"I think they both have more of a soulful writing style," Monahan says, noting the songs "I'm Not Waiting In Line," "Shelter Me" and the title track. "They both live in Atlanta and maybe they're exposed to it more."

Then there's the single, "Cab," a slice of pop Nirvana. An infectious tune that seems to recount a late-night taxi ride in Manhattan, it was actually written in, and is about, a winter's night in Erie.

"I consider Pennsylvania and New York basically the same state," he says. "There are similar kinds of attitudes between the people of Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, and people in New York or New Jersey even. It was a cold winter in Erie, similar to the weather in New York, and having visited New York many, many times, it was a queer visual in which those two could coincide."

Monahan splits most of his free time between residences he owns near Seattle and Erie. But there were no divided loyalties earlier this year when he accomplished a lifelong dream by attending Super Bowl XL with his father, son and a few close friends. Of course, he was rooting for the Steelers.

"It will be a memorable time that I'll always have," he says. "I'm not a guy to camcorder everything, I'd rather just live it out, but I'll never forget it."

Additional Information:

Train

With: Brandi Carlile

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Admission: $29.50-34.50

Where: A.J. Palumbo Center, Uptown

Details: 412-323-1919 or www.livenation.com

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