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Travis + Thomas J. Speight @ O2 Academy Birmingham, 26 October 2013.

On a wet and windy night in Brum we feel that we really should be chilling out in meadows in a festival field on a summer’s day, as the uplifting and charismatic Travis make a return. Instead we hum the lyrics to one of their biggest hits as we make our windswept way to the O2 Academy – why indeed does it always rain on me?

It has been a while. Travis have been off doing family things, hanging out with their kids and taking a break, never splitting (although the muso press may like to speculate). Formed in Glasgow in ’90, a late star of Britpop and very possibly the leading inspirational light for (the recently split or not as the case may be) Keane and more the commercially recognisable Coldplay. Travis are still Fran Healey (vocals), Dougie Payne (bass), Andy Dunlop (guitar) and Neil Primrose (drums). It was the late 90’s that brought the album ‘The Man Who’ (including that rain song), huge success, massive world tours and the plaudits and awards, as did the follow-up ‘The Invisible Band’.  BRITS, Ivor Novellos, Q Awards and then some followed. Success was slightly curtailed in the early noughties by a dreadful near death incident where Primrose broke his neck in a swimming pool accident. Primrose thankfully fully recovered and Travis went on to record and tour before their ‘family’ break. Now to 2013, after a five year break, they are back on tour with new album in tow – ‘Where You Stand.’

Support tonight is from a Thomas J Speight. Expecting a man with guitar, we’re wrong – there’s him with a band and accompanying female vocalist. They / he are light but enjoyable, harmonised folk vocals. They fit the bill well: the gathering audience clapping, they are going down well. “Thank you for being so awesome so far – only second gig in Birmingham…” Lots of people talking as Speight takes request for an audience member in a long distance relationship, so for Terry, we get their song about such a situation. With T’s and CDs for sale and an appreciative audience (and an support from Sir Paul McCartney as one to watch) summer festivals clearly beckon in 2014.

Quick interlude as the kit is swapped and on to a blackened set and accompanying strumming guitar, the lads from Travis appear on stage, Healey akin in trademark hat. First track ‘Mother’ goes down well as a guitar-laden Healey bops around the Stage. The set is streamed with red light and we get the uplifting a boppy ‘Selfish Jean.’

Healey is chatty, affable and entertaining: “Hi everyone, how you doing? It’s great to be back – thanks for coming tonight to see a very small man sweating a lot – I’ve got very large sweat glands!!! So great to be back…” Big cheer from the crowd.  “Kids are best song you’ll ever write about…” “aaaah…” go the females in the audience as Healey relates his latest inspirational musical subject matter. Tonight they’ll be playing old songs and the new.  ‘Morning’ has the infectious rising chant of “on and on and on and on….” Travis are indeed still quality, truly professional energetic and really rather fun.

Quite a few audience members have been clearly participating in the falling down water, there’s one or two dad-dancing or staggering around, their feet not quite doing what is required. Healey gets everyone to put their hands up, wave them side to side, “tick tock, like a metronome” and everybody does as we go into ‘Love Will Come Through’ which all too sweetly rolls. Travis are clearly enjoying being back on the road, big smiles across all the lads faces, as we’re into ‘Driftwood’ and we all sing along.

They played London recently (the partisan Brum crowd boo). Healey comments on the ‘need’ for people to take video be it by smartphones or even iPads etc. He doesn’t care if the band is being filmed (he genuinely really doesn’t mind) but he does point out the bleedin’ obvious to which any gig-goer will agree. Those behind those filming can’t see the stage. “Remember – ask the person behind if it’s okay. And they’ll say no.” The comment gets a big cheer from the crowd.

For ‘Where You Stand’, Healey’s off the stage, he’s standing on the barrier singing over the crowd. “The security guard was like …bleurgh…” he quips. ‘My Eyes’ was written when he found out he was gonna be a dad. ‘Reminder’ is a song for his seven year old; if for some inexplicable reason, he wasn’t around, this song is a list of instructions. It’s the hits get the biggest cheers as we sing along to ‘Side’ “That the grass is always greener on the other side, the neighbour’s got a new car that you wanna drive…” “ And we “sing, sing, sing, siiiinnnnggg…..” along to ‘Sing.’ Healey engages with the crowd throughout; he’s a surprisingly good showman.

‘Blue Flashing Light’, with a lighting display surprising of blue flashing lights is probably the heaviest track of the night, followed by last of this part of the set: ‘Turn.’ And for the encore we get a few more tracks and a final reminder of what we can expect when we leave the venue: “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”

Travis are fun. And talented. And professional. Coldplay will charge you 70 nicker in an arena or stadium. But you couldn’t do far better than to pay a little over £20 to see Travis in a small venue. Travis are a band that well, just makes you want to smile. Indie pop sugar pop happy days. And they’re still on form. So we leave smiling. And singing. And as we leave and get wet once again, we’re humming their song again…

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Setlist:

  1. Mother
  2. Selfish Jean
  3. Pipe Dreams
  4. Morning
  5. Love Will Come Through
  6. Driftwood
  7. Warning Sign
  8. Re-offender
  9. Where You Stand
  10. My Eyes
  11. Reminder
  12. Writing to Reach You
  13. Side
  14. Closer
  15. Sing
  16. Slide Show
  17. Blue Flashing Light
  18. Turn

Encore:

  1. Good Feeling
  2. Flowers in the Window
  3. All I Want to Do is Rock
  4. Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

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Listening:

The Man Who [1999]

The Invisible Band [2001]

Where You stand [2013]

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Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Ian Dunn.