Travis live at Westonbirt Arboretum, 29/06/07

by Lucie

Travis is one of those bands I’ve never been sure whether I should admit I love. Some people seem to think Fran and co are at odds with most of my other tastes (though some of them just make no sense at all), but the fact is that Travis came first. As one of the first bands I really got into, I couldn’t not finally see them live once they were in my neck of the woods. Literally. As part of the Forestry Commision Tour, Westonbirt in Gloucestershire was visited; a beautiful part of the world and a fantastic venue for a good slice of indie.

The mood was incredibly relaxed, the clientele spanning generations, the oldest of which had to sit further back if they had camping chairs, or just wanted to protect the kids’ ears. We, the huddled masses, parked ourselves near the wood chippings that revealed the blessed golden circle, and waited happily in the sun, eating Jaffa Cakes (just after buying my ‘Selfish Jean’ t-shirt, too. Look up the video, you’ll understand).
We were expecting a band called Juno Falls, but either the solitary man that turned up called himself Juno Falls, or the others had failed to turn up, we couldn’t be sure, seeing as he introduced himself as “Miles from Juno Falls”. A lovely boy, he was thoroughly chuffed to be there, and had a marvellous voice, but his songs consisted mainly of anguished wails, which ruined it somewhat. If he does have a band the rest of the time, I think the overall sound would be better.

The Hours were something utterly different. Friendly and energetic, they had people swarming towards the wood chippings, very much interested in their heavy indie with a wonderfully dramatic hint of piano. The singer was particularly appreciative of our support, and we of their music. They seemed to enjoy getting us revved up for Travis, and left the stage far too late telling us we were in for a treat. Well, we knew that

Having heard sound checking run-throughs in the car park (difficult to muffle in an arboretum), we felt like we’d had a taster already, and were hungry for more. A bizarre array of music was played over the stereo while a rather huge flock of roadies cleared things up, and people started to pack close. We hit that ace moment when a song stops half way, and after ten seconds doesn’t come back… When you know that the band are coming. The Rocky theme tune blared, and we waited. And waited. I could hear cheering from behind, but why… Oh, THAT’S why. Four little Scottish men in brightly coloured satin boxing gowns shuffling their way through the crowd, high fiving everyone around them… An ingenious entrance, I must say, though being near the front I didn’t see them until the last minute.

Glowing, the band bounced up on the stage (Fran wearing my ‘Art, Music, Jaffa Cakes’ t-shirt, and Dougie wearing a waistcoat, making me become very fond of him), and launched into the magnificent newest single ‘Selfish Jean’, getting an excitable crowd jumping right from the start. People refuse to believe me now, but they are one of THE most energetic, fun, friendly and lively bands I have ever seen. Yes, I know they’re a veteran indie band, but it has been known to happen.

They played a delicious mix of their oldest hits, several from the new album (the best so far, an exceptional record), and chatted to us whenever possible, getting us involved – something that will always get a band in my good books. A little gentle abuse went on too, as Fran got us to pressure their stand-in pianist when he did his tinkly solo by shouting his name – Claus – over and over again. Then we had to do it to Neil, after he broke his titanium drum peddle! There was an incredible atmosphere there, feeling like all several thousand of us had been invited to a private party. And Travis were wonderful hosts.
A particularly fabulous moment was the band huddling together at the front of the stage, busking to ‘Flowers In The Window’, encouraging us as always to sing along. Andy had calmed somewhat by that point, having spent most of the gig having a serious private rocking-out session. Dougie was the opposite, calm and exuding pure cool. Neil soldiered on in the background, gaining some extra respect from me – you need to see a band live to appreciate the drumming fully. Fran was just such a happy little pixie, you couldn’t help but want to take him home and coddle him.

They gave a hint towards what their next single might be – something from the new album called ‘Battleships’ – though almost all of the songs on that could potentially be singles. Only that, ‘Closer’, and ‘My Eyes’ were played from ‘The Boy With No Name’, along with ‘Selfish Jean’. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they didn’t only try to flog their new record, but gave us what they knew we’d want. ‘All I Want To Do Is Rock’ was eagerly received; a song from the very first and not very well-known album, something heavy and drawn-out, un-Travis but much loved.
As night fell, lights washed over us, a glorious band played, and it just couldn’t have been a better evening. They loved us, and we loved them, it was pure equal give-and-take. One of the very best gigs I’ve ever been to, I would recommend seeing that modest little groups of Scots to anyone and everyone.

Travis with Brinkman

by Jill

Warrington Parr Hall, 22nd March 2007

“I’m sorry that you turned to driftwood

But you’ve been drifting for a long, long time”

What a lot of top gigs we’re suddenly getting in Warrington! Damon Albarn’s latest project, Arctic Monkeys, Editors in a few weeks, and tonight seminal Britpop giants Travis. It’s been a bit quiet from them lately, but with a tour to mark the impending release of their first album proper in four years, they’re back among us and looking good.

First though are rising London threepiece Brinkman. It’s hard to miss them as the roads to the venue are paved with publicity for their new single ‘I Wish’. They make an understated entrance to say the least, strolling onto stage in such a modest and nonchalant fashion that the houselights don’t go down until halfway through the first number. Powerful drumming coupled with tuneful guitar musings and witty lyrics serve to grab the audience attention and hold it. Their melodic harmonies are reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub, with ‘Pillow’ perhaps the most Bandwagonesque-esque. Elsewhere they hint of the Byrds and Squeeze, and they engage with the crowd between tracks, particularly telling the tale of ‘Carol Simpson’. I like a band who takes time to have a chat with us! ‘I Wish’ is received with some affection, showing that the band are already gathering themselves quite a following. Certainly worth checking out, which you can do here.

Huge cheers greet Travis as they join us, like returning heroes. They begin straight away with ‘Eyes Wide Open’, a number from the forthcoming album ‘The Boy with No Name’. It’s old-school Travis, melodic, crafted, both throwaway pop and anthemic singalong at the same time. The set is a satisfying mix of old and new material; new single ‘Closer’ and tracks like ‘Selfish Jean’ rubbing shoulders with the older, established classics like ‘Writing To Reach You’ and ‘Driftwood’. Fran Healy’s voice is sweetly powerful, sweeping effortlessly beween joyful and melancholic. Musically they are as close as ever, Dougie Payne and Neil Primrose providing a solid backline as Andy Dunlop indulges in rock god postures and power chords, falling to his knees, scrambling up to the balcony, rolling around on the floor, while still giving us those harmonious Travis breaks at the same time. A familiar chiming of bells heralds ‘Sing’ and the audience respond with a single united voice:

“For the love you bring won’t mean a thing
Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing”

The new album includes some intensely personal moments, named as it is after Healy’s new son (the boy now has a name, you will be glad to hear) and you get the impression that he is proudly introducing them to the world like new offspring: the celebratory ‘My Eyes’ is dedicated to the baby. The new material fits so easily within the back catalogue that ironically it is one of the older songs, ‘Good Feeling’, that sits least comfortably in this set. Healy gives us the pleasure of his harmonica playing during the Payne-penned track ‘Closer’ and actively encourages the crowd singalongs for the old Britpop anthems, hankering perhaps for those good old when they ruled the stadia and festival fields.

Healy returns to the stage alone for a sincere rendition of ‘Flowers In The Window’, before the rest of the band return to wind up with “Turn” and “Why Does It Always Rain On Me”. They leave the stage in triumph, aware now that they have a killer new album in the pipeline, and that the affection for them is still there.