Travis, a bunch of nice blokes from Glasgow, turned up at the London Apollo. This big barn, with an all-seater layout, is always bizarre for a ‘rock’ gig and, with just eight bar staff servicing the 1700 people in the circle seats, it shows scant regard for audiences.
But tonight, that audience was comprised largely of the people who’ve placed Travis at the top of the musical tree – their fans. Despite lukewarm reviews for the last two Nigel Godrich-produced Travis albums (The Man Who and The Invisible Band), they are now one of Britain’s biggest-selling music acts.
It’s easy to see why. Intentionally or subconsciously, they’ve appealed to the sort of people who bought into Status Quo or even Lighthouse Family; people who don’t often buy records. They have enough anthemic stompalong numbers like Turn to get people going and their stagecraft is practised, even polished. Credit where credit’s due – they might not be the most exciting band around, but they do have appeal.
Girls throughout the auditorium clearly thought as much anyway, for Fran Healey’s lightly muscled torso, clad in a vest, could be appreciated even in the gods and he does possess a very strong voice. Turn, delivered with some gusto midway through the set, is a real voice-breaker, as anyone who has foolishly attempted to warble it at a karaoke night will tell you. Fran’s voice was hoarse when he’d finished it and spoke to his attentive audience, but by the next song he was again fine.
They would, before they were done, offer up Sing, Turn, Humpty Dumpty, Why Does It Always Rain On Me – and 20 sans mic. Fran Healy’s voice carried clearly to the 3,700 sell-out crowd who were for the most part attentive, barring one joker who threw some change at the millionaire busker in front of him. General titters subsided quickly as Fran continued to play solo and sing without a mic. The boy certainly has confidence.
But even on All I Wanna Do Is Rock, where Travis had their chance to sound raw and edgy, verses and choruses ended precisely where intended and not a single note jarred, leaving the feeling that something rather less dull and ordinary might have made for a more interesting live experience.
Bassist Dougie Payne took on lead vocals on one song and for half of Turn and, while his voice was no match for that of Healey, he acquitted himself well to the obvious delight of devoted Travis fans in the audience. One gets the impression that, even if Oasis’s next album is a treat and even if critics continue to deride them, Travis will endure, laughing all the way to the bank along the way. Good luck to them.