Concert Report

Friday saw Travis playing a gig at the Showbox, and saw me seeing said gig. Must be something about the Showbox's acoustics or the sound setup, but I was pretty impressed at the rumble-to-noise ratio. The bass -- especially during the set of opening act Leona Naess -- was a physical force, and the steady beat of the low drums flowed through you like living mechanical waves crashing against the shore. There's something really great about being bathed in music like that: it's hard to describe the feeling exactly, but I experienced at something akin to what I imagine goes on inside an ultrasound washer: the sound shakes the sediment loose from the walls of your veins, and you can feel tension and glum thoughts just flowing out of you with a bit of a tingling chill. I was just standing there, smiling and nodding and tapping one foot and not generally looking very into the concert, but I assure you I was loving it.

But, as I was saying, what made the experience so great was that the aural portion of the evening's entertainment was carried out at quite reasonable levels. At least where I was standing (on the main floor, middle of the crowd, off towards one side, which can be a death spot in terms of being overwhelmed by the bank of speakers pointed directly at you), the pain-in-ones-ears issue was a non-issue, and pretty much the entire evening went by without anyone maxing out their amplification, which made me very happy. Clipping is a pet peeve of mine: whatever kind of statement you want to be making at that many deciblels is your business, but once you start really seriously clipping, your statement becomes increasingly indistinguishable from anyone else's. There's a very good reason not to push your electronics quite to the limit: you start sounding like shite when you do.

Travis themselves have a decent stage presence. Their frontman, Fran Healy, delivered a really discombobulated "You're the greatest!" tribute to Seattle, mentioning Nivrana and Frasier, tearing off into a pitch-perfect cover of the Frasier theme song. He also spent the breaks between most songs taking towels offered him by stagehands and wearing them over his face. They're pretty good live; no major departures from the album versions of their songs, but they made me like a bunch of songs I hadn't been so keen on before. "Slide Show," in particular, really soars live. Healy had the crowd sing one of the verses of "Why Does it Always Rain on Me?", a task the crowd was just barely up to. For encores, they did covers of ". . . Baby One More Time" and "The Weight." The former still isn't a song I like, but I at least believe them when they say the cover is unironic; the latter is a great song, and Travis is just about the ideal band to cover it. It rocked.