Travis @ Symphony Hall 25th June, 2018

“So, did everybody get our new record, ‘The Man Who’? It’s like a time machine. You’re all nineteen again”. Travis frontman, Fran Healey’s, playful address is greeted with a mildly nervous chuckle from tonight’s audience. Contained within the joke is the uneasy truth around time, and how much of it has passed since we bared witness to the simmering ascent of the much lauded album the first time around.

For some, the decision to revisit ‘The Man Who’ in its entirety will afford them the opportunity to supplant themselves firmly back in the late 90s’. Some perhaps, will have discovered the album more recently. Either way, all are gathered, including the band themselves, to celebrate a career defining album that crept its way into the public consciousness as the 90s’ tumbled into the 00s’.

An outtake from the original shoot for the album cover looms large across the Symphony Hall stage. This vast and iconic image excludes the four band members, conjuring the illusion that they might have stepped directly from the photograph onto the vast stage. Cheers are launched at the stage from all quarters as Payne, Healy, Dunlop and Primrose take their positions. The old familiar “One, two, three, four…” is whispered by a kilt-clad Healy, before the even more familiar chords of ‘Wonderwall’ – the foundations for album opener ‘Writing To Reach You’ – erupts from the stage.

‘As You Are’ is a joy to behold, as the band toil expertly with the notions of restraint and release, Andy Dunlop’s solo still sounding like it was gleaned from an outtake of the ‘Abbey Road’ album.

Of course, one thing about performing an album as it was released, is that the audience know exactly what is coming next. A momentary pause, followed by that unmistakeable melancholic cello note, which soars, before crashing back into a sea of pedal induced guitars. Dougie Payne signals the looming chorus with a pogo as the notes tumble towards the chorus of the unmistakable ‘Driftwood’. Each component of the song, so seemingly simple, but most bands would kill for such an ability to conjure something so evocative from such humble ingredients. One again, Primrose and Payne, excel in their dedication to space and restraint.

‘Turn’ permits Andy Dunlop to unleash his purposeful buckles back and fourth, ringing all he can from his Gibson. The vocal demands upon Healy are immense, and he is permitted a moment to recharge as Payne takes lead on the second verse, before he is called upon once again to wrangle ‘Turns’ sinewy and searing chorus from his throat.

Another peculiar by-product of adhering to the album’s track listing, is that fan favourites land when they land. There is no mitigating circumstances by which they can be held back for the latter parts of the set. This results in the unusual sensation caused when the atmosphere is elevated substantially by the arrival of ‘Why does It Always Rain on Me?’. The house lights are raised up, as are most of those still seated, before a wave of raised arms and voices dominate the hall. To witness this at such an early stage in proceedings is slightly disorientating, to say the least.

‘Slide Show’ bleeds into ‘The Ma Who’s’ hidden song, ‘Blue Flashing Lights’, signalling the conclusion of the album, further evidenced as the backdrop tumbles, revealing a wall of searing lights. The next few songs cover the gamut of the rest of Travis’ other albums: ‘Love Will Come Through’, ‘Good Feeling’, ‘Flowers In The Window’ and ‘Sing’ bring the set to a close, before Healy and Payne return to perform their revered version of ‘Baby One More Time’. The full band reunite for a rousing version of ‘All I Wanna Do Is Rock’, leaving the hall glowing, fully immersed in a period of time that means so much to so many.

Reviewer: Chris Curtis

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