My first gig in just over six weeks brought my second trip to the Phil of the year, as I took the trip in the company of My Beloved Wife to see Travis, who were due to play their The Man Who album in full, supported by Turin Brakes.
I’d seen both bands once before. Travis was at the then-Carling Academy in Liverpool in September 2008, one of my first shows since moving up north, with My Beloved Wife again, along with our friend Lee.
I saw Turin Brakes at the time of their debut The Optimist LP, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire (now also an O2 venue) in October 2001, with one of my regular London gig-mates, Phil.
Neither of these bands are among my very favourites, but I was happy to revisit them both live. I’d followed Travis’s early career, picking up their debut album Good Feeling in October 1997, a month after it came out, and then getting The Man Who and The Invisible Band shortly after their release.
However, I then entirely lost track of them, picking up albums four and five shortly before going to see them in 2008, and not buying the missing album or the two most recent ones since.
I never bothered with another Turin Brakes after the first album, and was surprised to discover that they were now up to album number eight, with Invisible Storm released last January.
We left the Boy Wonder in the capable hands of his Nana and Grandad, making it to the Phil in such good time that we could settle into our seats for a few minutes before Turin Brakes came out, with what sounded like Mac DeMarco being played over the PA.
They played a mix of tracks from across their career, including two off The Optimist LP, although sadly not Feeling Oblivion. They were surprisingly loud, both based on the little I knew of their work, and their status as the support act.
They’ve been compared to the likes of Elbow and Starsailor, with powerful singer Olly Knights stealing the show alongside lanky, hirsute bassist Eddie Myer. The rest of the band are drummer Rob Allum and lead guitarist Gale Paridjanian.
The band revealed that they had last played with Travis at the time of their The Invisible Band album, which would have been very early on in their career.
Pain Killer (which amazingly was a top five hit in the UK!) from 2003’s Ether Song was choppy and almost baggy, while Black Rabbit off Lost Property from 2016 was a bit of an epic.
They unsurprisingly closed with Underdog (Save Me) from The Optimist LP, with this version featuring drum and acoustic guitar solos.
Turin Brakes put on a decent show, but probably retain their role as a band I’m not all that fussed about, despite their apparent love of Talk Talk, not something that really comes across in their music.
I headed to the bar in the interval as it was a pretty warm evening, returning with a pint of Goose Island’s Honkers Ale to listen to the eclectic mix of music being played between bands. It’s a long time since I’ve heard King, who featured in my article about My Early Musical Journey, and this was followed by Motörhead and XTC.
Travis came out on stage in a curious mix of outfits, with lead singer Fran Healy sporting a kilt and Zion Lutheran t-shirt, Dougie Payne on bass in suit and tie, and pogo-ing guitarist Andy Dunlop in a three-piece suit. Drummer Neil Primrose was in more normal band garb. They were also backed by new member Dave on keyboards.
Interestingly (or not!), the band have the same core four-piece line-up they had at the time of their first album, although they had gone through a number of line-up changes prior to that, as well as once being known as Glass Onion, named after a track off The Beatles.
It was immediately apparent that Dougie was very happy to be there (not that the others weren’t!), on what was the first night of the tour. Fran waited until the mid-point of the record before finally speaking to the audience, then talking on a few occasions about the failed relationship that had inspired many of the songs on the album.
The album had a slow start in terms of sales, but the success of third single Why Does It Always Rain On Me?, their first top ten hit, helped it to eventually spend eleven weeks at #1 in the UK chart. It’s apparently sold 2.7m copies in the UK, making it allegedly the 46th best-selling album ever in this country. Although, as that stat comes from a Top 50 list that only contains one Beatles album, it must be taken with a rather large pinch of salt.
They ran through the album in order, with the massive backdrop of the album cover falling to the ground during its final number, and the band leaving the stage at the unfeasibly early hour of 9:35.
They soon came back, without a great deal of encouragement, to play a greatest hits-style second set that drew from across their career. They plucked four songs from The Invisible Band, their second best-known album, with Side one of several songs to entice the crowd to their feet.
Fran told some other charming tales, mentioning how he had written My Eyes upon finding out he was going to be a dad (or “parent”, as he put it). That was followed by Flowers In The Window with some nifty banjo work by Andy.
Andy headed into the crowd as All I Want To Do Is Rock off the debut album developed into a bit of frenzy, breaking a string in the process.
The set ended with the iconic Sing, with Fran and Andy returning as a two-piece to do their traditional cover of Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, which was dedicated to the octogenarian gran in one of the boxes! It had been a Katy Perry cover instead back in 2008.
The other two members returned for another track off the debut album, Happy, which they hadn’t played the previous time I’d seen them. That meant they never did Tied To The 90’s, one of my favourites off Good Feeling.
I enjoyed the show, although it must be said not as much as My Beloved Wife, who is a much bigger fan than me, or a lot of the crowd, as the band had the audience in the palms of their hands for much of the evening.
There were a fair few Travis t-shirts in evidence, while I wore a green Teenage Fanclub one, their fellow Caledonian indie-ish popsters. The only other band tees I spotted were an Abbey Road one and a slightly more incongruous PiL one.
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify: