Review: Travis

The Scottish rockers performed their album The Man Who at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, 8 Aug

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In May 1999 a small band from Glasgow named Travis broke through into the musical mainstream with their second album, The Man Who. In a year of releases such as Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Californication and Dr Dre’s 2001, their record was something of a surprise hit. Its gentle, melodic sound was a departure from the heavier rock sound of their debut, Good Feeling, and the album charts in general at that time. It brought them worldwide fame whilst paving the way for the likes of Coldplay and Starsailor.

The Invisible Band was the album’s successful follow-up in 2001, and five subsequent releases followed, but none have had the same impact as The Man Who. Celebrating its belated 18th birthday, Travis’ performance at the Bridgewater Hall was made up of two halves: a full run-through of the album, followed by a selection of fan favourites.

The stunning Bridgewater Hall was an ideal venue. The snowy scene of The Man Who’s album cover hung as a backdrop as the four-piece sauntered on stage. Frontman Fran Healy sported a non-tartan kilt (which he wasn’t wearing ‘the traditional way’, he later admitted) and the band went straight into playing Writing to Reach You (the first of four single released from the album), which suffered slightly from unbalanced sound levels, but nevertheless kicked off proceedings well.

Sound issue were addressed ahead of The Fear, which was beautifully accompanied by a string ensemble, which benefitted from the classical venue’s acoustics. The opening notes of Driftwood (single number two) saw a scattering of fans rise to their feet and – slowly but surely – the rest of the audience followed suit. Curiously, there was an unspoken consensus to sit down again sporadically afterwards, as the band commences The Last Laugh of the Laughter. This continued throughout the show like a real life game of Guess Who?.

Singles three (Turn) and four (Why Does It Always Rain On Me?) played back to back, for which the audience remained on their feet throughout. Both tracks were clear highlights: Healy’s vocals soared during the chorus of the latter while the inevitable sing-a-long of the former’s chorus was joyous.

After a heart wrenching performance of Luv, Healy told the crowd that he performed the track backstage in front of Liam Gallagher whilst supporting Oasis on their US tour back in 2000. Its lyrics tell a story of break-up and, so Healy says, reduced the outspoken Mancunian to tears.

Slide Show – a tender song of self-reflection and looking to the future – marked the end of The Man Who’s showcase. The band took a short break before returning to perform Blue Flashing Light, the album’s hidden track. It is a rousing and urgent track dealing with dark domestic issues and far removed from the songs played before it.

Travis then ploughed through a further 11 songs from their back catalogue. They blasted into Good Feeling – the title track of their debut – to mark 20 years since its release. This was followed by excellent renditions of Side and Re-Offender.

Healy ventured into the crowd for Where You Stand, the title track from their 2013 album release. It is a song which doesn’t match the quality of earlier singles, but it made for a greatly enjoyable moment as the frontman precariously moved between the backs of seats amidst fans scrambling for photos, selfies, handshakes and peeks underneath his kilt.

Back on stage, the band got together for a brilliant acapella rendition of Flowers in the Window, a song with a distinctly Beatles-esque sound. The PA system bravely muted, they huddled in a semi-circle – armed with just a guitar and tambourine – and thankfully the gamble paid off. The audience was silent for the verses and gleefully joined in during the chorus.

They closed with Sing – an uplifting song with a simple message: singing makes everything better. On that basis, the celebration of Travis’s breakthrough album was greatly therapeutic.

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