Positive Vibrations

Travis - Remy Zero

Riviera Theatre - Chicago

September 19, 2000

First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2000, Volume 7, #11

Written by John Metzger


Travis is the latest sensation storming the United Kingdom. However, despite favorable reviews in the U.S. music industry press and a high-exposure tour with the overly hyped Oasis, Travis has yet to really find their niche in the American market. It's a bit puzzling, in fact, given that their recent album The Man Who superbly blends the sounds and styles of Oasis, Radiohead, and the lesser-known, but critically-heralded Big Star.

Fresh from the recording studio where they recently began work on their third release, Travis returned to the U.S. for a brief tour, which stopped at Chicago's Riviera Theatre on September 19. While the band's performance wasn't exactly earth-shattering or transcendent, they more than made up for this with their playfully infectious energy.

"Music is supposed to be simple. It's supposed to make you feel emotion," singer Fran Healy stated midway through the concert, and this was entirely the point to Travis' set. The band transformed the steady plodding of All I Want to Do is Rock into a peculiar epiphany of Velvet Underground wonderment, and they tackled Flowers in the Window with a decidedly McCartney-esque charm. Similarly, the group was determined to bring the sun out of hiding with the bouncy, Burt Bacharach-style strains of Why Does It Always Rain on Me?.

Even Travis' songs of loss (the mellifluously anthemic Driftwood) and of breakdowns in interpersonal communication (the velvety and buoyant Writing to Reach You) sounded positively vibrant and full of hope. Yet, the darkness that lies just beneath the surface of Travis' music did occasionally burst through its jubilant outer core. This was most evident on the powerfully pugnacious Blue Flashing Light, which twitched violently amidst its cyclonic swirl of guitars. Not quite as apparent, yet no less effective, was 20. Here, Healy stood alone on stage with his acoustic guitar, allowing the poignancy of his reflective lyrics to hang weightlessly in the air.

However, these were more the exception than the rule, and good feelings did abound throughout the show. From Healy's light-hearted banter with the audience to his hilarious take on the upcoming American elections vote for Gore because he looks like your next door neighbor and from his and guitarist Andy Dunlop's frenzied scampering about the stage to the group's selection of cover songs a Beatles-infused rendition of The Weight and a raucously electrifying interpretation of AC/DC's Back in Black Travis was clearly having the time of their life. They were taking their success in stride, and they were determined to not let it go to their heads. In fact, they appeared as if they didn't have a thing to prove and instead were content simply to sit back and enjoy the ride, allowing their talent to guide them. On the appropriately titled Happy, Healy sang out to the audience, "I'm so happy 'cause you're so happy." The amazing thing is that he meant it.

Remy Zero opened the concert with a 45-minute set of material that repeatedly threatened to veer into the turgid clatter of Live. Yet, there was something gripping about their performance. Using a dual-drummer assault, Remy Zero thrashed their songs against the surf of screaming guitars and rambling bass with such ferocity that it was difficult to resist being dragged into the undertow.

Travis' The Man Who is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Copyright 2000 The Music Box