Travis : New York Radio City Music Hall

So for nearly two hours, no-one thinks about anthrax or ambulances or lost lives. Instead, we laugh at Fran's fake American accent.

Radio City is sold out, but not full. People are afraid to join large crowds, or visit landmark buildings. NYC remains shaken, and there is an atmosphere of uncertainty. Is it wrong to settle into velvet cushions for an evening’s entertainment when outside the sirens continue their forlorn, perpetual wail? Across America, pop culture is treading eggshells – writers, musicians and comedians are having difficulty finding the right tone. Now our desensitised society has been re-sensitised, the frivolity that characterised so much media before September 11 makes us uncomfortable. Pleasure makes us feel guilty, yet we sorely need it.

Travis have already established themselves as the musical torch-bearers of humility, sincerity and simplicity. Tonight, these qualities are the perfect balm for at least some of our wounds. As they strike the opening chords to ‘Sing’, there is a gasp of delight as thousands of people stand together and do just that. Suddenly, it’s as though the lead weight of the past few weeks has been lifted. People look at one another and smile, relieved to be singing along to something other than the national anthem. As saccharine as that might sound, it’s a tremendous moment. In today’s New York, people are appreciative of kind gestures and Hallmark sentiments. [url=]Travis couldn’t be more welcome.

Fran waits until the unerringly poignant close of ‘Writing To Reach You’ to utter a muted, tentative “Hello, New York”. He then asks that the lights be turned up so that he can see people’s faces, explaining that the band had discussed cancelling this tour because they thought no-one would come. He doesn’t attempt to empathise with New York’s experience (who could?), describing it as “beyond words”. [url=]Travis have decided that the best thing to do is carry on as though this were any other gig, and show us the best possible time under the circumstances. It’s what many professional entertainers are doing right now, and in its own way, it’s as helpful as digging through the rubble.

So for nearly two hours, no-one thinks about anthrax or ambulances or lost lives. Instead, we laugh at Fran’s fake American accent, and welcome the innocuous comfort of ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ like we would a nursery rhyme. There’s nothing invisible about this band tonight – even Dougie, proudly sporting an NYC T-shirt, takes a star turn belting out ‘All The Young Dudes’ (a fabled Bowie special appearance fails to materialise) for the encore.

Everything takes on an air of profundity. Fran gives his usual intro to ‘Side’, in which he talks about how there are no sides to the globe (“We all wake up in the morning, we all take a shit. It’s just a few dickheads who fuck things up for the rest of us”) – and gets a standing ovation. The songs spew clichés like confetti, and we revel in them – because right now they’re exactly what we want to hear. The limp platitudes in ‘Turn’ about [I]”living in harmony”[/I] suddenly seem like feverishly astute utopian wisdom. Lines like, [I]”I want to sing my song/I want to live in a world where I am strong”[/I] take on new resonance. When Fran announces that proceeds from the concert will go to benefit NYC firemen and closes the show with ‘Happy’, the applause is relentless.

Remarkably, an evening that could have been disquietingly maudlin ends up being joyous. Travis deftly turn sadness into inspiration, a task tantamount to weaving straw into gold. We have entered an era of darkness, but tonight Travis‘ songs are like little candles reminding us of light.

April Long

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