In December I saw Travis perform “The Man Who” 20th anniversary tour at the Portsmouth Guildhall. It was my first time seeing the band live and, until now, my only exposure had been singing along to their anthemic hits on the radio or the compilation CDs I collected as a teenager. However, what I did know, was that this four-piece from Glasgow were one of the mega bands of the Post Brit Pop era, so it was going to be something special, something not to be missed.
As a side note, Travis are one of my boyfriend’s few musical obsessions and, as the gig grew closer, I was given an extensive tour of their back catalogue, with his love for the band raising expectations even further.
The Man Who, released May 24th 1999, was a follow up to their debut album “Good Feeling” and saw a departure from a harder, rockier sound to the now instantly recognisable melancholic ballads they are so well known for. After a mixed reception, the release of “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” catapulted “The Man Who” to the top of the charts, becoming one the most successful British albums of the past 20 years, spending 11 weeks at number 1, selling close to three million copies and was the highest selling UK album of 2000. The Man Who went on to win Ivor Novello Awards for Best Songwriter and Best Contemporary Song for “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” and BRIT Awards for Best British Band and Best British Album.
With all this in mind, we made our way to a sold out Guildhall filled with different generations of fans all excitedly huddling in expectation of a nostalgic revisiting of one of Travis”s most seminal albums. It”s not often you get to see a band of this calibre perform a 20th anniversary tour and you could feel the atmosphere build with anticipation.
Special guests, Turin Brakes, set the mood performing a mix of past hits and new material from their critically acclaimed new album “Invisible Storm” a great set from a band I”d not heard before and the perfect warm up to what was to follow. Soon after, the backdrop of the stage lit up with a giant image of The Man Who”s album cover and the Guildhall erupted as Fran Healy walked on stage (proudly displaying a Scottish heritage by wearing a kilt), accompanied by Dougie Payne, Andy Dunlop and Neil Primrose ready to belt out the hits and take us back to 1999.
Fran, in his gentle Scottish tone, greeted the crowd and informed us that they were going to perform the album track by track in its entirety and the journey began with “Writing to Reach You” the first single form the album. “The Fear” and “As You Are” followed building up to “Driftwood” with the entire crowd joining in, making this concert already one of my favourites of all time.
The hits kept coming, all full of an energy you”d expect from a new band, trying to make their mark, you wouldn’t never have guessed 20 years has passed since these choruses were first heard and the band were enjoying every minute of it. The camaraderie and love between band members really shone through, making the performance even more thrilling.
In between songs Fran would share stories about the tracks themselves and what inspired the lyrics as well as funny anecdotes about the bands adventures over the years. One in particular that stood out, was when Travis were supporting Oasis on their 1997 “Be Here Now” tour. Fran, in a brilliant Liam Gallagher impersonation, told us Liam called him to his trailer and abruptly ordered him to sing a song. Nervously, Fran chose the track “Luv” and, to his complete surprise, watched tears roll down Liam”s face and realised, “Liam was a big softie after all”… but don”t tell him, it was our secret. This continued through the whole night and made for an intimate and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The band continued with “The Last Laugh of the Laughter” before stepping up another level as they blasted out “Turn” and “Why Does it Always Rain on Me?” at which point the Guildhall was near fever pitch before moving on to the more gentler tracks of “Luv”, “She”s So Strange” and Slide Show”. If that wasn’t enough, they even performed the hidden track, much to my boyfriend”s delight, “Blue Flashing Light” before treating us to an extended encore of their biggest hits and favourites including “Love Will Come Through”, “Good Feeling” and the unforgettable “Flowers in the Window” and “All I Want To Do Is Rock”.
But it wasn’t over yet and, what better way to end the night than with the most uplifting performance of undoubtedly one of the bands most recognisable hits, “Sing”. As the band left the stage to deafening applause, I was both elated at my first real taste of Travis and sad that it had come to an end.
It”s safe to say Travis have joined my list of favourite bands and, with a little luck, it wont be the last time I get to see them live. Here”s to another 20 years of Travis.
Written by Nicole Kelly Seal
Photos by Angelo Tirotto