Gig Review: Travis – O2 Academy Bristol – Saturday 19th October

TRAVIS-PRESS-SHOT-4-colourReview by Arran Dutton – “Why did we wait so long?” – That’s the chorus line sung by Travis in “Mother”, the band’s opener as they took centre stage in the jam packed O2 Academy Bristol. The question has poignancy; Fran Healy and co revelled in what he later revealed to be their first gig in the UK for 5 years, and in a performance that felt genuine, honest and fuelled by rejuvenated souls, you have to wonder why in fact they did wait so long. You could feel the reciprocal love and warmth between musician and fan. From the moment the first chord was struck, it was clear that it was going to be a special night. ‘Where You Stand’ was released this August and it marks a triumphant return for Travis. Die hard fans aside would be hearing the new material played live for the first time on the night and it didn’t disappoint. “Moving” and “Warning Sign” particularly stood out, and of course, you’d expect a band of 17 years to be tight and on their game – no criticism there. Fran Healy was on great form all night both vocally and, to steal a Brentism, was “basically a chilled out entertainer” as he cracked jokes and casually knocked about some banter. Early on he addressed the front row and told them that they didn’t have to pretend to know the words to new songs, noting observations about people suddenly panicking and trying to utter anything when a frontman makes eye contact with someone on the barrier. The brilliant “Pipe Dreams”, taken from 2001’s ‘The Invisible Band’, was the first track that sparked a mass sing-along and one of many stand out moments that would come from the set. “Driftwood”, my all time favourite Travis song, ignited mass hysteria and from there it just kept getting better. A hugely underrated track in my opinion, “Re-Offender”, came soon after. Fran Healy was open in telling the audience about its inspiration, which came out of the domestic violence that he witnessed as a child. He recited a poem to the audience that his mother had stood up and told a few years earlier at Christmas. “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin centres on the narrative that “they fuck you up, your mum and dad…” and it was met with cheers and applause upon its ending after he uttered the words, “and don’t have any kids yourself.” – It was a surreal yet beautiful moment, which would later add sentiment to his words about the importance of going to gigs because there’s no middle man standing in the way of the musicians and the audience. What followed was the bright and uplifting “My Eyes”, which was bookended by new tracks “Where You Stand” and “Reminder” before big hitters “Writing To Reach You”, “Side”, “Closer” and “Sing” were expertly rattled off and provoked excitement. The classic “Thank you and good night” (or something to that effect) came after a powerful, stirring performance of “Turn” left audiences dazzled and the impressive encore followed. The band returned to the stage with “Good Feeling”, the title track from the band’s debut album. Still bouncing with energy, Healy seemed like he could play on for hours at this point and I had the feeling that they weren’t just going through the motions. This gig felt like a huge deal for them and I hope this will carry on with every gig on their current tour. He introduced this particular song by stating that it was the big moment for their Swedish keyboard player who had joined the band for this tour, before joking about how he is the son of ABBA after the band had a foursome… Or at least I think it was a joke. The Swede was the only one who didn’t raise a chuckle. An acoustic version of “Flowers In The Window” was cute; the band huddled together at the centre of the stage and at one point all played the guitar at the same time. As you can imagine, it felt like the biggest sing-along of the night because it was stripped back. It was simply breath-taking. “All I Want To Do Is Rock” followed and at this point lead guitarist Andy Dunlop decided to stand up on top of an amp, which led to every wannabe photographer and their brother reaching for their phones to capture the moment. It epitomised the joy and freedom that music can bring and undoubtedly some wonderful photos flooded the social media plain that night. One photo would beat it, though… Upon getting down from the amp, Andy Dunlop somehow suffered a nasty cut on his head. He’s Scottish and they’re hard bastards, so he took it like a man and persevered despite the blood running down his face. When the song ended, Fran turned around and showed a moment of concern before laddish immaturity stepped in, the piss taking began and the necessity to get a photo became apparent. After posing for the photo alongside Andy, Fran shouted: “You look like Rocky!” before screaming “Adriennnnnnne!” – boys will be boys. After responding to a fan request for “Tied To The 90s”, Fran insisted that they’d “play a few bars” but the band saw it through despite forgetting a few lyrics. Then the inevitable closer was brought out of the locker. I have to hold my hands up – I’m not a huge fan of “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” but when you see Travis you wouldn’t expect anything else to draw the curtain. Ironically, quite a dour song paved the way for pure ecstasy as fans met Healy’s request to pogo jump throughout. It was obvious he wanted it to be the perfect ending to a fantastic night when he cut the song off early to change from a six to an eight string guitar, acknowledging that it’s a song that is a big moment for the fans who deserve it to be performed properly. I can’t resist finding a cliché here, but they knocked it out of the park. True bliss. Wonderful. Fran, Dougie, Andy and Neil took the applause and left the stage in what I believe to be the best gig I’ve ever seen at that venue. When making my way out I saw some familiar faces from the Street and Glastonbury area and upon asking one of them, Andy Hambleton, what he thought, he responded, “I’m glad I’ve finally seen them”. I too was making my debut at a Travis gig despite having been a fan since my early teens and I couldn’t agree more, which begs the question: why did we wait so long? Keep up to date with Travis and their movements at For details of upcoming gigs at O2 Academy Bristol click here While you’re here… The Fix is delighted to support independent film and to be involved with comedy/drama series The Awkward Conversations We Have.  Here’s the opener, titled, Son We’re Swingers: