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.