August 13, 2007

Cheers, thanks for everything: Travis concert review

Travis is a band of four Scots who more closely resemble the cast of "Trainspotting" than a rock group. They've also been out of the spotlight since 2003's amazing but low-key album "12 Memories". So how is it that they can get an entire crowd jumping to possibly one of the most melancholy quality songs of the late 90s?

Let's start at the beginning (skipping the wholly underwhelming Jon Paul White who, with his sideman Ricky Dean, offered up every rock cliche a mopey moptop could). The arena goes black. Searchlights come up, and the opening number is...the 20th Century Fox theme? What's going on?

The music changes and the theme from "Rocky" is blared, as our four heroes - led by their roadies and managers - come out through the audience decked in full boxing regalia. High fives and cheers abound. As they get up to the stage, a brief clip of "Living In America" is played, they disrobe, grab their instruments, and launch into a stellar "Selfish Jean". This leads off a three-song barrage, being followed by "Eyes Wide Open" and "Writing To Reach You".

Fran thanks the audience and the concert hits full throttle, tearing through hits old and new. This includes, but is not limited to, "Sing" (complete with banjo), "Side," "Driftwood," "Big Chair," "My Eyes," "Pipe Dreams," "Battleships," "Re-Offender," "All I Wanna Do Is Rock," "Love Will Come Through," "Indefinitely," "As You Are," and "Good Feeling". Intermittently, the band has their roadies toss bottles of water out to the audience - one of many moments that prove that Travis may love their music but their fans are key. Guitarist Andy Dunlop hops into the crowd for a solo. Bassist Douglas Payne sings a verse of "Turn" while Fran and Andy rock out together. Fran has the crowd cheering for touring keyboardist Claus during his "Good Feeling" solo; as Fran puts it, "like an angry Viking - whose fish was just stolen or something - really put the pressure on". "Closer" tears the house down, before which Fran has us introducing ourselves to our neighbors in the audience.

If the main set of the concert wasn't enough, the five-song encore cements Travis as one of the best touring bands out there now. It begins with an acoustic "Flowers In The Window" with the rest of the band singing behind Fran. I believe the second song is "Afterglow," but it pales in comparison to the follow-up.

Fran comes to the mic and says "This is something we never do, but we're going to play a song again, a reprise if you will of 'Selfish Jean'. We're going to have some assistance. I don't know if you watch 'The Daily Show'..."

Crowd goes nuts. I look over to fellow correspondent and love Joyful Girl.

"But we have with us Demetri Martin..."

What? Is this for real? Joyful Girl and I are exchanging looks of intense excitement. Demetri Martin joins to perform a live version of the "Selfish Jean" video. For reference, watch below:

Following this...and nothing needs to follow this...Fran asks the audience if they want one song or two (there's only one song left on the encore list folks, I checked). Of course, they say two, so Fran and co. add an impromptu "Humpty Dumpty Love Song," and close guess...

A song that has us all jumping...

"Why Does It Always Rain On Me". Coming into the final verse, Fran stops the audience and tells us we all need to jump. "We have marksmen. If you don't jump, they will find you and bring you down." Oh, British humor. The whole house goes nuts. The show ends, and Cloud 9 doesn't disappear for the rest of the night.

Now, I've been to some amazing shows. We saw Collective Soul and Live earlier this year, and a bill of Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Seether, and Evanescence is pretty difficult to beat. OK Go came into the audience for an acoustic performance and that was amazing. But no band has given an entrance so amazing, water to the audience, a guitar solo inside the audience, an encouragement to harass a band member, Demetri Martin dancing onstage and eating chocolate biscuits, and amazing song after amazing song the way Travis does. They're an underrated stage presence, gracious for any spotlight, and promising a return soon. And that, folks, is a band worthy of mention.

I give this concert a 96.

No comments: