Travis : London Hammersmith Apollo

A celebration...

2001 was the third stellar year in a row for [a]Travis[/a]: another bloody huge-selling album, significant inroads into “the American market”, a load of hit singles, and to top it all that ultimate accolade – the use of tonight’s opening number ‘Sing’ as the soundtrack for a stupid semi-goth teenager slashing her wrists with some nail scissors on ‘Hollyoaks’.

Tonight, then, is a celebration, and it follows a familiar pattern. From the moment, Fran walks onstage, the audience reaction is hysterical. The fact that a) he’s wearing a sleeveless black vest that looks like it cost £5.99 from Top Man and b) the stage set consists of four blokes standing in a line next to a few TV screens thrown doesn’t seem to matter. With [a]Travis[/a], it’s all about the songs.

NME is seated upstairs in Row Z, literally the furthest point from the band that doesn’t involve a wall a being between us and them. It’s often impossible to see precisely what’s going on, but somehow even that doesn’t detract from the warmth and vitality of the show. Their charisma is such that even up here you feel like you’re within groping distance of Fran.

Sure, the music is often solid rock’n’roll at its most honest, and – crime of crimes – guitarist Andy Dunlop is even spotlit during a particularly lengthy solo, but the constant supply of hits is enough to keep the momentum going. The highlight, though, comes near the end. Fran unplugs his amps, stands away from the mic and plays little known B-side ’20’ totally acoustically. In a sense one man busking at the end of a large auditorium, in another the absolute pivot of tonight’s show. It’s mind-blowing.

There may come a time when the experience of [a]Travis[/a] performing their songs on a stage really isn’t deemed sufficient reward for the price of a gig ticket, when the songs lose their sparkle and the show seems to lack Something A Bit Special. But that time isn’t now. Earlier this year, NME called them “the people’s band”. It’s a description that’s hard to disagree with.

Justin Blair