Scottish band Travis formed in the early 90s and went on to be one of the biggest acts out of the U.K. during that period. Travis is generally acknowledged as the forerunners for bands like Snow Patrol, Keane and Coldplay. Now half the band is touring North America doing acoustic shows in small venues. Travis fans fear as not that doesn't mean that the band has broken up.
The band has recorded 6 albums and two members, lead singer Fran Healy and guitarist Andy Dunlop, are on the road touring and writing material for their next album. On this tour Healy and Dunlop are going chronologically through their catalogue from the first song they wrote to the newest.
It was a unique opportunity seeing a band who has played in front of crowds sized in the tens of thousands at Live 8 and Glastonbury in such an intimate venue. The couple of hundred fans who came out on this damp and windy Halloween evening were amply rewarded.
In a very unrock star way Fran Healy took the stage exactly at the 9:00 scheduled start time. Caught up in a Halloween state of mind Healy was sporting a costume (black leather vest, mullet style wig and black moustache) that made him look like a member of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynard. Healy joked that the getup made him feel like doing the entire concert in a southern accent. While he did not and spoke with his Scottish brogue, his warm and humorous stories coupled with songs from the width and breadth of Travis catalogue kept the entire crowd entertained for the over 2 ½ hours of the show.
The length of the show (other than Bruce Springsteen name an act today that stays onstage for that long!) and the fact that Healy was able to talk about the stories behind the writing of each of the songs and project a slide show onto a screen set up onstage was only possible due to the intimate nature of the show.
After performing the first song ("20" that Healy admitted was not the first song he wrote, but was the first decent one) alone, Healy was joined onstage by bandmate Andy Dunlop. Not to be outdone by Healy, Dunlop was dressed up in a getup that made him look like a member of metal band Anvil. His costume was made complete by a pair of awful false teeth. These hideous false teeth, while they only stayed in his mouth for a song or two, and his cheesy rock guitarist poses during a solo provided a laugh for many members of the audience.
It was an evening of shared experiences – Healy telling us a lot about the song histories and the two men up onstage performing, something that they both obviously adore and the audience revelling in the music. Stories about songs like "Writing to Reach You" which Healy told us he nicked the chords to from Noel Gallagher from Oasis and their song "Wonderwall". The show was just as much about Healy's stories as it was about the music. Images projected onto the screen from Healy's laptop often heightened the humorous aspects of the stories he told.
A thought that struck me about 1 hour into the show was "What is it about Brits and their ability to write über catchy pop songs?" Travis's catalogue is litter with songs like "Driftwood", "Side" and "Sing" (a song that Healy admitted was first called "Swing", but that he changed after bandmate Dougie Payne questioned why they were doing a song about partner swapping) that you can't help but sing along to. It wasn't just the hits that the crowd sang along to, but members of the audience sang along to all the songs.
It seemed like Healy and Dunlop would go on forever. Healy, in his only out of tune moment of the evening, apologized for playing for so long. No one minded as the evening had fallen into that 'priceless' category that he had earlier in the evening attributed to all music. During that same part he also said that one of the reasons that music was so wonderful is that it worked like a bookmark in your life. Reminding you of where you were and what you were doing at certain points of your life. Well, this show had also climbed into the bookmark category that many of the audience would use to remember Halloween 2009.
Towards the end of the show Healy apologized (though blamed it on the booking agents) that it had been so long since they had played a show in Montreal (over 8 years, I believe), but promised that it would not be that long until the next time they played Montreal again.
1) 20 (Fran solo)
2) All I Want to Do is Rock
4) As You Are
5) Writing to Reach You
6) The Last Laugh of the Laughter
7) Why Does it Always Rain On Me
8) Slide Show
9) Flowers in the Window
10) Blue Flashing Light
14) Beautiful (Fran solo)
15) Love Will Come Through
16) My Eyes
18) Selfish Jean
19) Walking Down the Hill
20) As it Comes
21) The Unbelievers (audience request)
22) More Than Us (audience request)
23) Good Day to Die (audience request)
24) Combing My Hair