Travis play The Man Who at Royal Festival Hall: A much-needed celebration of British rock
Tonight at the Royal Festival Hall Travis played a great, much-needed show. At some point Fran Healy told me “f**k you”, publicly. By the end of the evening, I was on stage and we were hugging.
There was an era, not long ago, when bands like Oasis, Coldplay, Blur, the Verve, Stereophonics – and Travis – would be on a continuous battle. And I’m not talking about the 1995 chart battle, I’m talking about that golden decade that ended around 2006 when these bands would fight hard to write better songs than anyone else’s. It was a celebration of songwriting, and Healy of Travis became one of the main competitors with the release of The Man Who in 1999.
The Scottish four-piece are now on tour to play that iconic album in full and – expectably – it was a stroll down memory lane. They started with Writing to Reach You, immediately inducing goosebumps with the Wonderwall-inspired guitar intro. “I don’t know how, these songs sneaked under the doors, around the critics, the radios started to play them. You sleep in your bedroom and you never dream you’d be on the radio,” the frontman said. When they performed Turn, everyone in the hall stood up and sang their heart out; of all their songs, it remains the most heartfelt, feel-good and soul-filling. A true anthem.
“The next one… it feels odd, people these songs are written about are in this room today. I’m not gonna mention any names – Laura [laughs]. This is the one that changed everything,” Healy told the audience before launching into a brilliant rendition of Why Does It Always Rain on Me?. Slide Show was another highlight from the first part of the set, although the most entertaining moment was the anecdote introducing Luv: “We were on tour with Oasis, the Be Here Now tour. It was like touring with the Stones at the height of the madness. They were the biggest thing. They had a caravan backstage to get changed or do drugs [laughs] – no they didn’t do drugs. Liam was on a couch with a hat and said ‘You come here’. So I went ‘Hey man, how are you doing?’, ‘Sit down, pick up that guitar and play a song’. And I played this next song to him. I was so nervous, I played the whole thing. When I looked up he took his glasses off and he was crying. This is the song that made Liam Gallagher cry.”
After a little break, Travis came back to play more tracks – mostly from their debut Good Feeling and The Invisible Band. It was a perfect evening for their fans who could see them perform rarities such as The Last Train, Happy, their cover of …Baby One More Time as well as noughties hits Side, Sing and Flowers in the Window. Right before 2007 ballad Closer, Healy took a moment to criticise journalists for being too focused on trying to find something new to write about: “If you are in the press, f**k you.” Now, this man who permanently influenced my appreciation of music, who I supported for years and years, just insulted me publicly – although indirectly. He inspired me to, among others, start a music magazine when I was in high school (Travis were the cover for our fourth issue). At 17, I set up our very first competition and the prize was a ticket to see his band live.
Maybe the press aren’t the only ones to speak a bit lightly sometimes. However, half an hour later the singer and I hugged on the stage during a crazy rendition of Happy (he asked for a stage invasion). It’s all good. Actually, incredibly good.
As for the music scene, the wonderful blend of genres that hit the industry in the late 2000s had the sad side effect of eroding that cohesion that kept the British (and beyond) rock bands together. Guitar music hits the charts seldom if ever, but don’t they say trends go in cycles? We’ll just have to wait a little bit longer.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information and future events visit Travis’ website here.
Watch the video for Writing to Reach You single here: