Thursday, April 9, 2009

Travis at Zellerbach Hall, CA: 4/7/09

I liked the band Travis before I actually knew who they were. At Coachella in 2007, the friends I was with insisted that we arrive in time to see Travis' set. I had no idea who the band was or what songs they were known for, so I spent most of the set exclaiming, "I didn't know Travis sang that! I love that song!" It was a treat to finally get to see a full concert of their music on Tuesday night.

A live performance with a few unforeseen problems and technical glitches tends to be a good litmus test of how talented a band really is. According to lead singer Fran Healy, the monitor had been giving their sound engineer problems all day, so the band regularly had to look offstage to ask him to adjust the mix. There was a loud blast of feedback in the middle of "Driftwood." Healy had to stop and restart "Something Anything" because the technical problems threw him off a bit and he forgot the opening lyrics. After heading into the audience and climbing up onto a chair, he slipped and for a moment fell onto an audience member while -- ironically -- performing "Falling Down" (both fan and singer were fine).
Healy and his fellow musicians handled the problems with grace and a charming sense of humor, explaining what had happened to their audience and turning the glitches into a chance to further connect with their fans.

Even with the occassional mishaps, the quality of Travis' music and performance is all that the audience is going to remember. The band isn't flashy, but the strength of their songwriting, musicianship and vocals stand on their own and you can clearly hear how Travis became the predecessor to bands like Coldplay. The audience was with them from the first song to the last, with people on their feet for the whole show even though it was a completely seated venue.

Watch a clip of Travis' performance of their hit "Sing":

I hadn't yet listened to Travis' newest album, Ode to J.Smith, but that didn't make the concert any less enjoyable. Actually, I was thrilled that the new songs show they've moved back toward an edgier rock sound that's closer to their first albums. Their encore also included a hilarious cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl." Fran and Andy had so much fun playing up the humor in that performance and kept all the original lyrics.

The evening's opening act was The Republic Tigers, a young Kansas City band. I don't usually make a point of seeing opening acts, but since Radhika recommended them, I did this time -- and I was glad I did! The Republic Tigers played an impressive set of indie/folk-rock. While listening to them, I caught myself thinking of The Killers, but with a harder edge. Their original songs made you want to hear more, but their one cover song was a standout. The Tigers took on Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and I will never know how the lead singer (who had a deep, rich speaking voice) tackled a song with that high a pitch and made it sound good.

Setlist: "Chinese Blues," "J. Smith," "Selfish Jean," "Writing to Reach You," "Re-Offender," "Something Anything," "Long Way Down," "Love Will Come Through," "Closer," "Driftwood," "Side," "Falling Down," "Sing," "The Humpty Dumpty Love Song," "Song To Self," "Sarah," "Turn"

Encore: "I Kissed A Girl," "Good Feeling," "My Eyes," "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?"

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