It’s easy to forget just how popular Travis were a decade ago. Twice winners of the BRIT Best British Band Award, they sold an impressive number of records around the world. And the brand of undemanding, melodic, soft-centred pop-rock they developed in the aftermath of the more laddish Britpop was a big influence on the likes of Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol, bands whose star rose as Travis’s waned. Though often dismissed as bland and sentimental, the gentle Glaswegian quartet has produced a series of consistently well-polished, wistfully appealing tunes, thanks mainly to the songwriting skills of lead singer Fran Healy.
Travis’s latest, seventh album Where You Stand (their first for five years following the disastrous showing of The Ode To J. Smith) may not deliver any surprises but it is a return to the easy-going, mellifluous form for which they are known. After covering most of America, the band are now touring all over Europe, so their lay-off seems to have revitalized them. Not so much predictable as professional, they arrive on stage at the Roundhouse bang on time at 9 pm and put on an entertaining if not particularly exciting show lasting over one and a half hours.
Surprisingly, fewer than half the songs played are from Where You Stand, which suggests either a lack of faith in their new material or, more likely, a shrewd realization that the packed crowd most want to hear the old favourites. Of the new stuff, the title track and first single gets a warm reception, with Healy crouching down close to the punters at the front, while for Warning Sign the audience are willingly coaxed to join in with the backing vocals.
But it is the hits from the past that get the most reaction, such as the mellowly meandering Driftwood, the jingly-jangly Sing with guitarist Andy Dunlop on banjo and the joyously tuneful Turn. The affable, laid-back Healy, still seems to reach the high notes effortlessly. He interacts with the crowd as smoothly as the music itself wafts through the auditorium, getting fans to sway their arms back and forth metronomically and interrupting a song to politely ask people to stop holding their camera phones akimbo so others can’t see.
The encores include an acoustic rendering of Flowers In The Window and a mass sing-along of Why Does It Always Rain On Me? As Travis eventually exit the stage, there is no mistaking the genuine appreciation the crowd has for their songs. They may not be making music headlines any more, but they are definitely not forgotten.