When the University chose Train to perform at the Smith Center Saturday for Colonials Weekend, it was playing it too safe.
In the wake of Bill Maher’s controversial performance last year, it seems like the University was apprehensive about booking another comedian. During his set, Maher said things that many found disrespectful, most notably saying, “Folks, get that stick right out of your ass.”
But just because Maher’s comedy set was offensive to some doesn’t mean that the University had to be so cautious and stray away from the trend of hosting comedians. Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon were both well received in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Stephen Colbert or Tina Fey – entertainers known for their ability to appeal to a broad audience – would have fit the bill.
Leading up to the event, some students were not excited about Train’s performance. And I don’t blame them. The problem is, Train doesn’t appeal to this generation of college students or their parents. The band wasn’t the right kind of entertainment for a diverse audience.
And while choosing a mediocre performer might seem like the best way to avoid controversy, it can be just as toxic as having a potentially offensive comedian. Bill Maher might have pushed the boundaries a bit, but at least he entertained the crowd.
Here’s the difference: Jon Stewart sold out. Bill Maher sold out.
Train did not.
To their credit, the band did deliver a positive performance. Although there was a very restrained and awkward atmosphere at the start, with students unsure of how to act at a concert with their parents, the crowd eventually went wild for Train’s encore performance of “Drops of Jupiter.”
But if the University was set on having a music group after Maher’s polarizing performance last year, it should have chosen a band that could bridge the generation gap. Groups like the Eagles, Tom Petty or U2 have mass appeal that would have filled every seat in the house.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the ’70s funk band, Earth, Wind & Fire, rocked the Smith Center with tunes that everyone could recognize. People danced and cheered.
Most people can’t stand to hear “Hey, Soul Sister” every 15 minutes on the radio, let alone buy tickets to see it performed live.
Dan Grover is a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.