fri 18/09/2020

Travis, Islington Assembly Halls | reviews, news & interviews

Travis, Islington Assembly Halls

Travis, Islington Assembly Halls

The nice lads from Glasgow are on hard(ish) rocking form

Travis: dad rockers

“The reason we’ve been away so long,” explained Fran Healy halfway through last night’s gig, “is we wanted to take time off to enjoy our kids.” Such non-rock’n’roll sentiments are, of course, the sort of thing you might expect from a band once dubbed the “nicest in the world”.  What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was the amount of fire and passion that would surface during the night. Really.

“The reason we’ve been away so long,” explained Fran Healy halfway through last night’s gig, “is we wanted to take time off to enjoy our kids.” Such non-rock’n’roll sentiments are, of course, the sort of thing you might expect from a band once dubbed the “nicest in the world”.  What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was the amount of fire and passion that would surface during the night. Really.

Travis have often been described as a sort of late-Britpop predecessor to Coldplay. Faint praise indeed. Chris Martin even calls himself a “poor man’s Fran Healy”, which hardly improves the compliment. The problem has never been the quality of the tunes – most agree Travis’s songs are well-crafted. The real issue has been, until recently, the band have failed to convince they are capable of expressing the grittier side of life.  Put it another way, they can sound a little wet.

“Selfish Jean” was delivered with a real sense of emotion and experienceLast night’s gig - their first in the UK for five years – was scheduled to give fans an opportunity to preview some of the new album in an intimate environment. The Islington Assembly Halls, an art deco building attached to the town hall, is an interesting venue but can struggle to lose its air of municipality. Last night that worked in the band’s favour. Gone was any sense of the band’s history as a platinum seller. It felt like a return to their origins in the clubs of Glasgow.

Despite the vague acoustics of the room the rock-solid performances of the five musicians on stage kept the sound from veering off course. Guitarist Andy Dunlop was on particularly fine form. Throughout the night he both let his inner axe-God surface, and brought a much needed rawness to damper songs like “Writing to Reach You”. Healy's recent work on his singing also seemed to be paying off. Songs like “Selfish Jean” and “Love will Come Through” were delivered with a real sense of emotion and experience.

The set was largely divided between gutsy re-workings of old favourites and examples from the new album. These included superior American FM-rock material like “Mother” and “Moving”. Healy also proudly premiered the song “Reminder” about becoming a parent. It’s probably the hardest subject for a songwriter to tackle – not even John Lennon could escape mawkishness on “Beautiful Boy”. Healy’s lyrics may not have fared any better but, at least, it was an agreeable tune.

The real surprise of the night was how effective the band were on the harder rocking numbers. It was true of “Blue Flashing Light” and “All I Want to Do is Rock” and even more so on a fuel-injected, impassioned version of “Turn” which proved to be the high point of the evening.

Still, the crowd seemed to be divided on the performance as a whole. Whereas the fans at the front were lapping up every moment, nearer the bar stood a group of hipsters poo-pooing what one described as “old-hat". It may be true that Travis are currently be less fashionable than they’ve ever been, but last night they demonstrated they are also at the top of their game.

Watch the video for Travis's new single "Where You Stand"

 

I hadn’t anticipated the amount of fire and passion that surfaced during the night

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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