Travis@OlympiaByDebHickey (10 of 20)-banner

Travis at The Olympia Theatre, 21st of October 2013

It’s easy to forget that Travis were once one of the biggest bands in Europe, winning Brit and Ivor Novello Awards in the late ’90s and even headlining Glastonbury in 2000. But bands like Coldplay and Keane stole their mid-paced radio thunder during a period of inactivity following a near fatal swimming accident by drummer Neil Primrose. Travis failed to make up the ground they lost to these and other bands as the next generation rebelled against the four-finger G sound of Britpop. A series of patchy albums followed before Travis eventually took time to, as Fran Healey explains, “rock out with the little people.”

Acknowledging their absence Travis commence their set at the surprisingly sold-out venue with Mother from their recently released seventh studio album ‘Where You Stand’. “Why did we wait so long” exclaims Fran Healy instantly proving he hasn’t lost his ear for a simple, effective and ultimately memorable melody through a chorus reminiscent of their heyday. It doesn’t take Healy long to work up a sweat, bounding across the stage climbing drums and acting out comedic mock tantrums. He enjoys himself so much that by the end of the night his shirt is drenched another colour and he resembles Andrew Lincoln after a hard day killing Walkers.

Bassist Dougie Payne hammed it up on stage to the point of hilarity; dressed like the Fonz in the recent Teddy Boy trend set by Alex Turner, giving the audience his best Carry On “you’d get it” eye to the front rows, to the point that it almost seemed playfully perverted. This was accentuated by his hypersexualised Chippendale hips which grinded against his bass throughout the performance. However the crowd soon caught on to Payne’s antics and he began to struggle to keep a straight face whilst giving the eye to the crowd. When he wasn’t hamming it up he delivered some fine harmony vocals and surprisingly drove most of the material with his flowing melodic bass-lines.

Moving stands out through the early section of the show which focused on new and lesser known material such as Selfish Gene, thanks to its smooth radio-friendly melodies and refrain of “on and on and on.” Fran is quick to halt proceedings as he sees security flashing torches frantically. “It’s ok to film us” he says “but we are right here!” before delivering a fine rendition of fan-favourite Driftwood which still retains its vitality all these years later. Things go awry when Healy attempts to teach the crowd to sing along to new song Warning Sign but the crowd are confused by Payne’s backing vocal and the moment never quite arrives. There are hints of slowed down Led Zeppelin throughout which indicates rockier urges.

When you have kids you realise you’re gonna die” declares Fran Healy with deadpan comedic verve introducing Reminder a set of instructions for his son Clay to follow when papa Healy passes. Despite its morbid inclinations the track is another indication that Travis are well on the way to recovery. Writing To Reach You cracks the seal on lead guitarist Andy Dunlop’s rock rage as he batters through an impressive octave solo like the ghost of ‘The Bends’-era Johnny Greenwood. He crashes to his knees throughout Side as if he were Glasgow’s answer to Slash.

Closer creates a dreamy swell around The Olympia Theatre and features a highlight of the night when the crowd take over lead vocals much to Travis’s surprise and enjoyment. Sing creates an unintentional visual spectacle when Andy Dunlop appears to be playing a double-neck Les Paul/banjo combo from certain sections of the crowd. Sing resonated so strongly with the assembled crowd that Travis had to halt proceedings as the crowd refused to stop applauding. Slide Show has a similar effect on the crowd who are hushed in appreciation before Blue Flashing Light ramps things up considerably, concluding with Dunlop scrapping his guitar neck with his mic-stand creating a hail of noise you’d expect from The Jesus and Mary Chain in the process.

Travis are joined onstage by Clase Björklund (keyboards) for Good Feeling the title track from their début album and when the band requests the audience to chant “Clase, Clase, Clase” they oblige doubly so when Healy requests that they be “more aggressive” it all combines to create a strangely fun moment. Flowers In The Window sees Travis try their hand at a Walk Of The Earth-style rendition of the track as the group surround Healy centre stage providing backing vocals before Healy stops playing the guitar and the right hand of Payne and the left hand of Dunlop take over proceedings in an unexpected twist.

“This is the first song we ever played together” declares Fran Healy before a memorable performance of All I Wanna Do Is Rock, a sentiment Andy Dunlop embraces entering the pit while performing a solo with his Les Paul held over his head. Umbrellas were opened throughout the crowd as Why Does It Always Rain On Me concluded an unexpectedly memorable performance. They may no longer be household names but, on the evidence of tonight’s performance they are just a single or two away from a fully fledged revival.

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Photos: Debbie Hickey