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Train & Goo Goo Dolls at Ak-Chin Pavilion

June 12, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 11:30 pm

Arriving at the twilight of the post-grunge era, Train managed to simultaneously exist squarely at the center of American mainstream rock while not belonging to any particular trend. Despite the hard rock background of lead singer Pat Monahan, the San Francisco-based combo never sounded particularly heavy. Instead, they tapped into the sturdy sounds of classic rock, an aesthetic epitomized by their breakthrough “Drops of Jupiter.” That 2001 international smash gave Train a career, but the group turned into superstars in 2009 when the breezy “Hey, Soul Sister” established the combo as adult contemporary superstars. Certified as sextuple platinum, “Hey, Soul Sister” was a sunny, nostalgic number that illustrated how Train was quintessentially Californian: they were transplants drawn to the West Coast, besotted by the sounds and sights of the Pacific, preferring good times to grit. After “Hey, Soul Sister,” Monahan and Train made no bones about celebrating their adopted home, in the process racking up a string of Top Ten adult contemporary hits that stretched into the late 2010s.

Following the dissolution of his Led Zeppelin cover band, singer Pat Monahan left his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, in late 1993. He resettled in California and crossed paths with Rob Hotchkiss, the former frontman of a Los Angeles group named the Apostles. The two formed their own duo and began playing local coffeehouse shows, eventually expanding the group to a trio with the addition of former Apostlesguitarist Jimmy Stafford. Bassist Charlie Colin and drummer Scott Underwood also climbed aboard, thus solidifying Train‘s lineup in 1994.

Over the course of several years, Train developed a sizable audience in the San Francisco area. The band also toured the country, opening shows for the likes of Barenaked Ladies and Counting Crows while drumming up enough money to record an album. Although few labels showed interest at first, Traineventually attracted the attention of Columbia Records, who signed the band to one of its smaller labels — Aware Records — and issued the self-financed debut record Train in 1998. “Meet Virginia” became a Top 40 hit one year later, but the band truly hit its stride in 2001, when Drops of Jupiterbecame a multi-platinum success thanks to its titular single. The song remained in the Top 40 for nearly 40 weeks, while the album itself sold more than three million copies.

My Private Nation followed in 2003 and went platinum, largely due to the successful single “Calling All Angels.” Although the album didn’t yield any more Top 40 hits, three of its songs fared well on the adult contemporary charts, a sign that Trainhad traded its alternative rock roots for an older fan base. For Me, It’s You followed in 2006, but sales proved to be the lowest of Train‘s career. Accordingly, Monahan briefly turned his focus inward, releasing a solo album in 2007 and briefly touring behind it. He returned to the fold shortly thereafter, though, and Train issued their fifth album, Save Me, San Francisco, in 2009. The album helped rejuvenate Train‘s career, with “Hey, Soul Sister” peaking at number three on the Billboard 100. In 2012, the band released its sixth studio album, California 37, which debuted at number four on the Billboard chart.

Despite these successes, the bandmembers felt that mainstream “cool” continued to elude them. Monahan spoke of wanting to record an album that was more commercial, but would also connect emotionally with the public. With these ambitious goals, they knuckled down to writing and recording a new album, though without drummer and founding member Scott Underwood, who left the band amicably before production began and was replaced by Drew ShoalsTrain‘s seventh studio album, Bulletproof Picasso, was finished in 2014 and released in September of that year. It was preceded by the slick, country-tinged single “Angel in Blue Jeans,” which didn’t make many waves on the charts. Nevertheless, the album debuted at number five on the Billboard Top 200.

A year later, after Bulletproof Picasso failed to generated any subsequent hit singles (“Cadillac, Cadillac” and “Bulletproof Picasso” did make the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart), Train released the seasonal Christmas in Tahoe. The following summer, Train covered the entirety of Led Zeppelin‘s second album with Does Led Zeppelin II; the album peaked at 71 on Billboard. In September 2016, Train released “Play That Song,” the first taste from their tenth album. Not long afterward, lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford announced he was leaving the band on good terms. He did not play on a girl a bottle a boat, which appeared in January 2017. The following year saw the band issue the collaborative singles “Philly Forget Me Not” (with Daryl Hall and John Oates) and “Call Me, Sir” (with Cam and Travie McCoy).

Early in their career, the Goo Goo Dolls were frequently dismissed by critics as mere imitators of the Replacements; however, they refined and mainstreamed their sound to become one of the most popular adult alternative rock bands of the 1990s, selling millions of records to audiences largely unfamiliar with their influences. That’s no knock on the band, either — the music simply improved in craft and accessibility as the years progressed, and radio happened to be receptive to a style that, one decade earlier, would have been considered collegiate power pop. Thus, the band landed two huge hits with the acoustic ballads “Name” and “Iris,” followed by a string of Top Ten singles.

The Goo Goo Dolls formed in 1985 in Buffalo, New York. Guitarist/vocalist Johnny Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac, and drummer George Tutuska initially banded together under the name the Sex Maggots — their new moniker was chosen from an ad in True Detective magazine at the behest of a local club owner. Originally a cover band with a taste for power pop and classic rock & roll, the group soon began writing original songs. Their early sound recalled the Replacements‘ origins as a bratty punk band: melodic, snotty, and a little bit thrashy. That sound was the reason the band attracted the interest of the heavy metal label Metal Blade, which issued their debut album in 1987 (known either as The Goo Goo Dolls or First Release). Released in 1989, the follow-up album, Jed, continued in a similar vein, and the band’s college radio breakthrough came with 1990’s Hold Me Up, a Replacements-ish power pop record.

Released in 1993, Superstar Car Wash was the Goo Goo Dolls‘ artistic breakthrough; though it did nothing to quell the Replacements comparisons, it was a finely crafted pop/rock record, and its lead single, “We Are the Normal,” was even co-written by Replacements leader Paul Westerberg himself. Still, Superstar Car Wash wasn’t the commercial force the band hoped it would be, especially in light of the success of similar bands like the Gin Blossoms. That all changed with 1995’s A Boy Named Goo, when an L.A. rock station put the acoustic-driven ballad “Name” into heavy rotation. It was eventually released as a single and climbed into the Top Five later that year; platinum sales for the album followed close behind. Unfortunately, drummer Tutuska was no longer around to enjoy the band’s success; prior to the album’s release, he’d been sacked and replaced by Mike Malinin.

Dissatisfied with the royalty rates in their Metal Blade contract, the Goo Goo Dolls waged a legal battle that wound up allowing them to jump to parent company Warner Bros. Somewhat drained, Rzeznik and the band shook off a case of writer’s block to contribute a new ballad, “Iris,” to the soundtrack of the 1998 Nicolas Cage/Meg Ryan romance City of Angels. Appearing that April, the song became a monster smash, although it was never released as a single (so its official Top Ten pop chart status doesn’t convey how popular it was). For a better indicator, “Iris” spent nearly a year on Billboard’s airplay charts, including an astonishing 18 weeks at number one, and was nominated for three Grammys.

The band’s next album, Dizzy Up the Girl, was released during the middle of “Iris”‘s marathon airplay run and eventually sold over three million copies. Its clean, polished sound completed the Goo Goo Dolls‘ transformation into mainstream pop/rockers who happened to have alternative roots. Further hits from the record followed over the next year, including “Slide,” “Dizzy,” “Broadway,” and the Grammy-nominated “Black Balloon.” Although Dizzy Up the Girl quickly became the Goo Goo Dolls‘ highest-selling album ever, none of its singles appeared on the band’s 2001’s career retrospective, Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce, which focused on earlier material and B-sides instead.

The Goo Goo Dolls’ audience shrank a bit during the 2000s, although the band still managed to go gold with its seventh studio album, 2002’s Gutterflower. A concert recording, Live in Buffalo: July 4, 2004, appeared two years later and helped fans endure the long wait for the band’s next studio effort, Let Love In, which didn’t appear until 2006. It, too, went gold, as did three of its singles: “Better Days,” “Stay with You,” and a cover of Supertramp‘s “Give a Little Bit.” A traditional greatest-hits album, Greatest Hits, Vol. 1: The Singles, was released in 2007, followed one year later by Vol. 2, which followed Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce‘s lead by compiling rarities, B-sides, cover songs, and live performances.

Recording sessions for the band’s ninth album began taking place in spring 2009 with producer Tim Palmer. Although a release date was scheduled for February 2010, the band headed back into the studio in January to make several last-minute changes to the album, with longtime producer Rob Cavallo — who also worked on Dizzy Up the Girl and Gutterflower — lending his help. Something for the Rest of Us was ultimately released that summer. The album debuted at seven on the Billboard 200 but generated no hit singles. The Goo Goo Dolls supported the album into 2011 and in 2012, then turned their attention to recording a new album. The resulting Magnetic was released in June of 2013, preceded by the single “Rebel Beat.” Magneticpeaked at eight on the Billboard charts. Following its release, drummer Mike Malinin departed the band; Rzeznik and Takac chose not to replace him. The pair released Boxes, their first album as a duo, in May 2016; it was preceded by the single “So Alive.” The next year, they issued a five-song EP titled You Should Be Happy.