Travis @ House of Blues, Anaheim 4/9/09

Travis is one of those bands who seem to get better with age, despite the fact that their lesser-known debut album Good Feeling (1997) is one of their best. Unlike other well-hyped British bands who never quite made it, Travis really have lived up to the critical acclaim by being talented musicians as well as excellent showman. Playing a nice selection of hits, singles and new songs from their latest album Ode to J. Smith (2008), Travis successfully entertained and amused the packed audience in Anaheim.

Singer/guitarist Fran Healy seemed genuinely surprised at the turnout, despite their usual concerts at much larger venues in Los Angeles like the Wiltern (where they played the next night and also back in 2007). Showmanship and fine songwriting are trademarks of a Travis concert and this was no different. Healy has really mastered the art of doing split kicks from the top of Neil Primrose’s bass drum.

Travis’s on stage energy overflowed into energy off stage. During the song “Falling Down,” Healy jumped off stage and disappeared into the audience. He even slow danced with a female fan while other fans recorded the moment on their cell phones. Guitarist Andy Dunlop carefully stepped across the bar on the right side of the stage during “All I Want To Do Is Rock,” though returned soon after the cord came out of his guitar. “Before You Were Young,” from the latest album, made use of the giant gong behind the drum kit, which made a nice backdrop for most of the night.

Travis has no shortage of popular and recognizable songs. Many of these were greeted by enthusiastic sing-alongs by fans. “Writing to Reach You” was the first of these songs, with its acoustic twangy sound. The upbeat “Selfish Jean” picked up the pace of the show. “Love Will Come Through” is another intricately delicate acoustic song, which Travis does so well. “Driftwood” and “Side” are earlier hits, which fans are still eager to hear after 10 years. Probably one of the best banjo accompanied songs ever written, “Sing” is the perfect song for audience participation. “Turn” closed the main set with its awe-inspiring chorus and lyrics.

After a short applause break, Healy returned to the stage and played the song “Sarah” acoustic and alone on stage after joking about how he wanted all the attention from the audience. After that, Dunlop joined him for a rousing acoustic version of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” during which he moved to the center of the stage to share Healy’s microphone several times. Travis closed the show with the well-known single “Why Does it Always Rain on Me?” ending with another sing-along.

The Republic Tigers from Kansas City put on an occasionally entertaining opening set of generic alternative rock. Unfortunately, their own songs were not too distinguishable from one another. The one real highlight of their set was their cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” which showed the singer/guitarist Kenn Jankowski’s (formerly of the Golden Republic) ability to do a great falsetto. Overall, they did a good job of warming up the audience for a highly entertaining night of music. The band released their first full length album, Keep Color, in May 2008 on Chop Shop Records. Keep Color features the singles “Buildings and Mountains” and “Fight Song” and their music has been featured on numerous TV shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, Supernatural, and Chuck. For more information on The Republic Tigers, check them out on MySpace.com/TheRepublicTigers.

Main set:
3 Times and You Lose
Writing to Reach You
J. Smith
Selfish Jean
Re-Offender
Something Anything
Long Way Down
Love Will Come Through
CloserDriftwood
Side (with a bit of Eyes Wide Open?)
Falling Down
Sing
The Humpty Dumpty Love Song
All I Want to Do Is Rock
Before You Were Young
Turn

Encore:
Sarah
I Kissed a Girl (Katy Perry cover)
My Eyes
Why Does It Always Rain on Me?

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