x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Eraserheads and Train in Dubai

Eraserheads and Train entertain a massive crowd at the du World Music Festival.

The Filipino rock band Eraserheads. Antonie Robertson / The National
The Filipino rock band Eraserheads. Antonie Robertson / The National

In a departure from the laconic and cooler-than-thou attitudes of Eraserheads’ fans, the Filipino garage rockers were met with the mass adoration normally reserved for a One Direction concert.

A 10,000 strong crowd of Filipino expatriates created a carnival attitude pre-show, with a few groups even breaking out into karaoke versions of Eraserheads hits to ease the wait until showtime.

The amphitheatre exploded with cheers when the 15-minute countdown ended and the four-piece (and an extra guitarist) took to the stage and immediately launched into the driving Walang Nagbago.

It was the beginning of a two-hour performance crammed with more than two dozen fizzy pop-rock -pieces.

The boys may have aged – and become more polished in their look – since their scruffy 1990s heyday, but their musicianship was tight throughout.

Their dynamic set exhibited their knowledge of various guitar -genres.

Maling Akala had a pleasant ska flavour while Back2Me was a frenetic pop-punk flourish reminiscent of The Ramones.

The superb key change in Ligaya’s chorus took what was serviceable funk-pop track to new heights.

The bluesy jaunt of Poorman’s Grave received an extra kick, courtesy of the three guitars on stage while Huwag Kang Matakot’s rapturous chorus were designed for such large venues.

However, Eraserhead’s eagerness to please can work against them.

When on point they create near perfect pop-rock, but when the song-writing falters, the tunes become trite.

The cheesy intro to Kailan was reminiscent of Freddy, My Love from the Grease soundtrack while the wafer-light Overdrive was pleasant but ultimately forgettable.

With most of the songs clocking in at three minutes, the crowd were able to ignore the clunkers and focus on the hits culled from a near decade-long recording career.

In a touching moment mid-set, the frontman Ely Buendia shed his cool demeanour to dedicate the regal power ballad Lightyears to the expatriate crowd.

The refrain “It always seems so very far because you’re light years away”, was a bittersweet moment for the audience: a celebration for the return of hometown heroes laced with sadness for loved ones still missed.

News of Eraserheads’ heroic performance reached the American pop-rockers Train, who headlined the amphitheatre on Friday night.

“Who are they?” asked the frontman Pat Monahan backstage.

After a quick recap of the band’s history and comeback tour, he smiled.

“I wish I could play to 10,000 people here.”

Monahan and co didn’t have much to worry about, however. While about half the number turned out on Friday, they were in fine voice, executing a well-polished set heavy on crowd interaction.

Beginning with the Mariachi flavoured 50 Ways to Say Good Bye, the trio – augmented by four extra musicians – touched on the singles from each of their six albums.

This was a good thing, as while Train have a knack for producing solid singles, that has meant some uninspiring middle-of-the-road material contained in their albums.

However even at their weakest, a mediocre Train song is more than often saved by Monahan’s powerful voice, which often moves from nimble verse to soaring chorus.

The melodic, almost stream-of-consciousness of If It’s Love had Monahan making use of the T-shaped stage when he ventured deep into the crowd and took happy mobile phone snaps of the audience.

The band’s breakout single Meet Virginia, from their self-funded debut in 1999, remains their best offering to date.

Monahan’s verse where he describes a love whose “daddy wrestles alligators and mama works on carburettors” effortlessly breaks out into an expansive chorus that is truly inspiring.

Despite the different production flourishes on each album, the band have been following the same blueprint with mixed results.

The elegiac Calling Out All Angels was brilliantly done with the two extra backing female vocalists accentuating the song’s soulful flavour.

Save Me San Francisco, however, sounded tired with the chorus feeling like an after-thought.

The crowd had opportunities to get involved with the on-stage -action.

A crafty fan named Carolyn convinced Monahan she knew the lyrics to Bruises only to have the singer sing both parts when it was apparent “she didn’t have a clue”; while in Mermaid, 30 members were allowed to jump the barriers and dance along to the latest single.

The majority of fans in attendance summed up the band’s success: enthusiastic females ranging from grown women to young teenagers accompanied by husbands and brothers.

 

sasaeed@thenational.ae

 

• Check out our backstage interview with Train soon on Arts&Life

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