NASHVILLE, Tennessee – June 21 marked the summer solstice, hence the first official day of summer. For the many who braved the extreme heat and high humidity at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, Summer began precisely at 7:00 p.m. central time. That is the moment John Popper and Blues Traveler took the stage and ignited an amazing night of music, with John Popper and company bringing the groove to the party.
The Travelers’ set put the band’s talent and diversity on full display. They lit a fire underneath everybody with their cover of the Son Seals funk burner “Funky Bitch,” which is featured on their 2022 Grammy-nominated album Traveler’s Blues. It was also about spreading the joy with fan favorites like their 1995 Grammy winner “Runaround.”
The definitive highlight of Blues Traveler’s set came about when Clare Bowen joined the band onstage for a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It was a beautifully organic moment the entire crowd genuinely loved and appreciated.
Multi-Grammy nominee Jewel then graced the stage. Her set featured three tracks from her latest release, Freewheelin’ Woman: “Long Way “’Round,” “Alibis,” and “No More Tears.” “Long Way ’Round” treated fans to a bluesier, more sultry side of Jewel, reminiscent of the Muscle Shoals sound that helped shape her. “Alibis” gave everybody a great reason to bob their heads and move around in their seat, if not jump out of it completely.
With lyrics like Never seen you clearer than in my rear-view mirror, if you’re going through a bad breakup, this song needs to be at the top of your workout playlist. “No More Tears” was originally featured in a 2020 documentary that Jewel executive-produced entitled Lost in America. The film spotlights the issue of youth homelessness, which Jewel has intimate experience with, and has been a tireless advocate for ever since.
The version of “No More Tears” on “Freewheelin’ Woman” features Darius Rucker, but Jewel took everybody to church in the spirit of the original version from Lost in America. She very generously treated fans to all the hits from her certified 12-time platinum debut release Pieces of You and beyond, but if you really want to know which moment stole the show, just Google “Jewel yodeling.”
You’ll thank me later.
When it is time to party like it was 1976, Train never fails to bring it. Five years removed from the release of 2017’s A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat, San Francisco’s favorite sons and daughters have dropped AM Gold.
This nugget of an album is laced with just enough retro-nostalgia to make 50-somethings reminisce about their fourth-grade crush. Be that as it may, Pat Monahan and company stay true to their unique blueprint for keeping things groovy while also keeping their music relevant and accessible to anybody with ears.
The band created the pre-set mood by playing segments from Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 circa 1975. That was to be the harbinger of things to come as the band broke out of the gate with the title track to AM Gold. From that point forward, Ascend Amphitheater was rocking like an episode of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.
Another standout track from AM Gold featured in Train’s set was “Cleopatra.” This track features 26-year-old Mexican pop songstress Sofia Reyes. Reyes was not present at the show, but Monahan and Reyes seamlessly performed the song with the actual music video filling in for Reyes’ absence. This song took the party to new salsa-dancing heights and elevated the temperature of an already steamy Nashville night.
Train made certain their fans got what they came for by performing many of the songs that have come to define their career. Songs like “Meet Virginia,” the Grammy-nominated “Calling All Angels,” “Drive By,” “Save Me, San Francisco,” and of course the Grammy-winning “Hey, Soul Sister” brought everybody to the heights of their singing potential.
Retro was the theme of the evening, so everybody in the house lit up visibly when Jewel joined Train onstage to perform a medley of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and “Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers.
Train also paid homage to the classic rock genre by nailing a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” The band concluded their set in the year 2002 by performing their 5-time Grammy-nominated and 2-time Grammy-winning classic “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me).”
By the time this song reached its final refrain, people were singing along as far away as Memphis. It was an amazing conclusion to an unforgettable evening where retro reigned supreme and the old actually did feel new again.
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Patrick Basnett is a freelance entertainment writer.