At a gig packed with the weirdly normal Philip Allen worries for the melancholy soul of Travis.
I liked Travis once. Really liked them. During the end of the nineties their music soundtracked some hard times where their melancholy tunes managed to lift the spirit to fight on through the rain of life. The first album, Good Feeling very quickly became forgotten as their chart topping second album, The Man Who produced some massive radio hits like, Why Does It Always Rain On Me and Driftwood and they moved into household name territory. The five albums since then have all done well, keeping them afloat as a band through their ordeals (drummer broke his back!) and relationships.
As I walk into the Academy, it becomes obvious their popularity isn’t waning. The place is heaving and trying to find a spot to see the band perform is nigh on impossible. Every space seemed filled by sorts who look to be builders, plasterers and gym heads out on the lash with their girlfriends. It’s a weird middle aged arena of extended gut action and bad peroxide hair do’s. They sway back and forth to the tunes coming from the stage, singing words indiscriminately, spilling their pints and drooling on those around them. It is a strange sight indeed. I forget how mainstream Travis have become.
The new songs sound like the old songs, strumming acoustic odes that build to the singalong chorus. Effective but somewhat tedious after the fifth one. They do have great songs though, Writing To Reach You and Sing are melodic wonders and no one can say Fran Healy doesn’t know how to write a good tune. He is simply brimming with them. Yet I feel somewhat disconnected from the proceedings having to contend with the roiders and their dizzy girlfriends. This wasn’t the gig I came for.
Nonetheless, Travis do a great job. Their sincerity and humbleness is most endearing as Fran Healy chats between the songs about his mother and growing up. It isn’t until the encore that I perk up, as they play a load of songs from the first album. Good Feeling, All I Wanna Do Is Rock and Tied To The Nineties, which is played spontaneously after a fan requests it. When they play the last song, Why Does It Always Rain On Me, everyone’s larynx are giving out after so much singing along.
Travis never fail to bring the enthusiasm and passion and it seemed as if the audience tonight matched them like for like, even if they were weirdly normal and middle aged.
All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.