There’s a difference between changing your mind and having a change of heart. One is clear cut, immediate; the other nebulous, but sincere. When [a]Travis[/a] made their statement of intent with ‘All I Want To Do Is Rock’, they appeared to be a blandly straightforward indie band more in touch with the dull-witted sensations of boozy euphoria than with their emotions – a band who might pen gormlessly catchy anthems but who would never express anything moving, beautiful or profound. Then, something changed. Along came ‘Writing To Reach You’, a song suffused with yearning, tenderness and poise. Clearly, [a]Travis[/a] had given up the urge to simply make fatuous noise and followed their hearts instead.
Indeed, new album ‘The Man Who’ is flooded with resilient melancholy, more inclined to shed a tear than break a sweat. It is subtle, sensitive and wise. And even if there is an unmistakable eau de Radiohead trickling through the songs’ restfully wounded veins, they retain a humble simplicity and candour that is entirely [a]Travis[/a]’ own.
Tonight, any doubts that this might not please fans of the old, brash [a]Travis[/a] are dispelled. This is a home-town crowd, so inevitably there’s an adoring atmosphere, and the shuddery, hollow grace of ‘The Fear’ is greeted with even greater enthusiasm than the singalong silliness of ‘U16 Girls’ or the infectious chug of ‘The Line Is Fine’. And even though ‘Good Feeling’ is still a terrific evocation of woozy drunkenness, it seems clumsy next to the way ‘Driftwood’ so perfectly encapsulates that gnawingly desperate, rootless feeling of being far away from home.
Curiously, [a]Travis[/a] are merrier when they are in introspective mode and though they certainly still revel in noisiness – grinningly losing themselves totally in the giddy ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’ and ‘Happy’ – they become radiant with pride during the slow-motion prettiness of ‘As You Are’ and ‘Slide Show’. There’s something very fragile about Fran Healy, his voice hesitant, when he asks for the house lights to be turned on so that he can see everyone while he sings ‘Turn’: [I]”We’ll never know unless we grow/There’s so much world outside the door/I want to sing/To sing my song/I want to live in a world where I’ll be strong”[/I]. This is a man who has learned to be unafraid of vulnerability. And a band who have come to understand there’s more than one way to rock.