The band who…
Delivered a debut album that caught the ear of Noel Gallagher, who knows a thing or two about writing songs, and then went on to worm its way into the ears, hearts and souls of a dedicated group of fans.
Shifted nearly three million copies of their second album…going platinum nine times in the process.
Bagged eighteen top forty singles between their debut “All I Want to do is Rock” in 1997 and “Selfish Jean” in 2007 a decade later.
Secured top twenty placings for each of their eight studio albums…including two consecutive number ones with “The Man Who” and “The Invisible Band”.
In addition to all of that they did it with smiles on their faces and a genuine love…for what they were doing, for the people who were listening and, one cannot help but feel, for the way in which they could touch those people and make their lives better, if only for a few minutes at a time.
Tonight is a home coming show…they home they are coming to is Glasgow and their can be no tougher crowd to please than this. Glasgow audiences don’t give you a reception based on your postcode, they give you the reception you deserve. That means that all the millions of records, the chart placings and the praise from other musicians means, exactly, bugger all.
Travis need to be good.
They need to be better than good.
They have to come close to perfect if they are to leave the stage to anything other than a lukewarm reception.
Their will be no surprises in the set tonight…at least not in the first half…as we are here to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of “The Man Who” and so we will hear the entire album from start to finish.
Their are very few albums that stand up to being listened to in their entirety…most, even some of the “classics”, have at least one moment where you have to physically restrain yourself from lifting the needle and moving on.
Not “The Man Who”.
It is a rare beast.
A flawless collection of songs.
As they launch into “Writing to Reach You” something hits me…Travis were not joking when they said that all they wanted to do was rock. On record “Writing to Reach You” is a delicate affair but here it is delivered with ferocious volume and real rock and roll swagger. It is bigger, beefier and brasher than you remember. The crowd respond accordingly, whipped, within seconds, into a frenzy of roaring and soaring delight.
I have heard people attempt to put Travis into the Noel-rock, dad-rock or, much worse, Oldplay boxes over the years…the people who do that are to be pitied. Imagine travelling through this mortal realm with neither soul nor ears; able to exist and listen but unable to feel or hear. Travis are an entirely different proposition to the likes of Coldpap; they don’t write with a cynical desire to shift units or force their faces into the centre of some virtuous cause they don’t actually care about in any meaningful sense but, instead, they write (and play) from somewhere deep within themselves. They craft songs that can touch you, that can lift the spirits of the most morose, that can quicken the pulse and that can mould an audience of strangers into one body, unified and bonded by song.
Back in 1998 when Travis were supporting Oasis on the “Be Here Now” tour young Fran Healy found himself sitting inside a caravan which was posing as a dressing room for Liam Gallagher at the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre. There sat Liam, legs spread wide in that “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” way. John Lennon shades and the omnipresent air of imminent violence lurking in the atmosphere. Gallagher points to a guitar and, in words of one syllable, instructs Fran to play a song. Fran obliges and plays “Luv”. Lost in the song he doesn’t look at Liam again until he finishes the last note. When he looks up the Lennon shades are gone and their sits Liam…openly weeping.
Tonight I have a similar reaction.
I stand with my eyes closed.
My arm around the waist of the only woman I could ever love.
I feel tears well up.
At the conclusion of the “The Man Who” set we get “hidden track”, “Blue Flashing Light” which nearly brings the police to the venue to arrest everyone on stage and charge them with assault and battery. The floor shakes, the sound system is pushed to breaking point and the innocent bodies in the crowd are floored by the sheer power of it all.
No, I haven’t forgotten.
Of course they played it.
Of course it was great.
It’s just one of those songs.
“Why Does it Always Rain on Me?” may well be the song that Travis are best known for but, honestly, if it hadn’t been played for whatever reason tonight I doubt anyone would have noticed or cared. That highlights quite how good this album is…it’s best known song isn’t central to your enjoyment of it.
Having said that…it was bloody wonderful to be in the middle of a few thousand, Christmas fuelled, Glaswegians belting every line like they were hosanna’s to whatever God you happen to believe in.
The band return to the stage to deliver a “best of the rest” set that includes the Britpop anthem “All I Want to do is Rock”, “Closer”, “Side”, “Sing”, “Flowers in the Window” and “Good Feeling”…all of this turns the evening into a celebration not of one album from twenty years ago or of a band but, instead, of the power of music to bind us together, to help erase our differences and to put a little bit of love into our hearts.
The climax of the night is a medley of Christmas pop hits including “Let it Snow”, “Mistletoe and Wine”, “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” all performed in front of two fighting jakey Santa’s (ask your Glaswegian friends!) and beneath a flurry of white balloons cascading from the roof while we are drizzled with fake snow.
A silly, happy, daft, lovely, loving and beautiful end to an evening that was as close to perfection as a gig can get.
Travis, the band who stole my heart.
Merry Christmas everyone.