If there is a crack in my armor of cynicism, Travis always finds a way to exploit it. For the most part, I cringe – or roll my eyes or snicker or gag – at sappy attempts of sentimental fluff in music. But, as I’ve said before, Travis somehow breaks me down. Every time.
Sunday’s show at Marquee Theatre in Tempe, the first time I’d seen Travis live, was no different. From the band’s juiced-up introduction (winding their way through the crowd in boxing robes to the Rocky theme song) to the closer (Why Does it Always Rain on Me?, naturally), Travis exudes a sincerity completely lost on the lightweight imitators the band spawned (Keane, Snow Patrol, etc.) – and every other self-important band, for that matter.
These are four guys (a fifth plays keys for the shows) who seem to genuinely enjoy making music – not just for themselves, but for others, too. The band works hard to foster a, ahem, good feeling among fans. (To wit: Singer Fran Healy spotted a young girl in the audience and jumped off the stage after a song to bring her a “gift” – a set of earplugs.)
And, yet, the way some people take cheap shots at Travis, you almost feel like you have to apologize for liking the band. Ooooh, they’re not complicated enough. They’re not indie enough. Who cares? I had a better time at this show – in the I’m-just-going-to-go-ahead-and-sing-every-song-and-not-care-what-people-think way – than any I’ve been to this year … or any other year. Ah. There. I said it. I feel better.
After the first few songs, Healy said the band would play some old stuff, new stuff and “in-between” stuff. That Travis hasn’t completely abandoned material from the 2003 commercial flop 12 Memories – the band played three songs off it – shows some guts, considering at least two people said to me recently: “The last thing I heard from them was The Invisible Band.”
More power to Travis then for returning this year with The Boy With No Name, an album that could easily have been the successor to 2000′s humongous hit The Man Who (nine times platinum in the UK or 2.7 million sales). Even still, Travis kept new material to a minimum, perhaps realizing that, with four years between albums – and, according to one fan, seven years between Arizona visits, to which Healy replied: “Shit.” – it’s best to reacquaint yourselves slowly.
To that end, tucking Writing to Reach You – one of the band’s most recognizable songs – right behind the Lust for Life-esque opener Selfish Jean played perfectly to the crowd. Later, Healy even ordered fans to point and chant the piano player’s name (Klaus … he’s Swedish) during a solo. It’s OK, he said, “It’s a Travis show. This isn’t Coldplay.”
It was a joke. But you get the feeling Healy and his bandmates, all smiling and climbing amp stacks (what the hell was Andy Dunlop doing?), are more comfortable letting a group like Coldplay bear the pressure/expectations of being the next “it” band. If Sunday’s show was a sign of a rejuvenated band in a happier place, then I can’t wait to see what comes next … at least not for another four years.
Set list for Travis at Marquee Theatre in Tempe, 11/25/07:
Writing to Reach You
Love Will Come Through
As You Are
All I Want to Do is Rock
Twenty (Fran solo acoustic with no amplification)
Flowers in the Window (Fran solo acoustic with the guys singing behind him)
Three Times and You Lose
Blue Flashing Light
Why Does it Always Rain on Me?