Travis | Review
Custom House Square, Belfast • Wednesday 22 August ’18
Words: Michael Ferguson • Photos: Tremaine Gregg
Let’s be honest and say it would be remiss not to attend and review a gig at Custom House Square and firstly not comment on the venue itself. It is one of the best arenas in Belfast and has the feeling of an amphitheatre with tall apartment blocks on one side and the architectural elegance of the Custom House on the other. It is as close to perfection as you are likely to find.
Scottish Band Travis were the headline act tonight, playing in full their 1999 album “The Man Who”. Support on the night came from Turin Brakes who entertained the building crowd with a set drawn from across all their album releases. They commented that they were delighted to be back in Belfast following a sold out show at the Black Box earlier in the year.
Their vibe is an acoustic feel with an electric edge and songs like State of Things, Painkiller and Underdog (Save Me) are delivered with the enthusiasm of a band that obviously still love playing live. The band are a tight outfit and Black Rabbit especially stood out on the night with its obvious feel of Pink Floyd.
They put on a good show tonight as support for the main act but are no doubt a headline act for many venues.
Travis came on stage just as the sun went down and the now packed square knew exactly what they were getting. The 1999 album “The Man Who” was acclaimed by music critics when it was released and it most definitely has stood the test of musical time.
Writing To Reach You provides us with a subdued opening but sometimes that is exactly what this album is. It is subtle but wistful at the same time. This Belfast audience is respectful and the opening numbers are there to be listened to. It is a chilled night so far and As You Are just compounds that. It is a wonderful song.
Fran Healy, wearing a kilt obviously because he is a proud Scotsman, admits its been a long time since they were last in Belfast and then launches into Driftwood and the audience duly oblige by singing along.
“The Man Who” is undoubtedly an amazing album but sometimes it looks like it is proving tough to get its depth across in a outdoor arena maybe due to the limitations on the volume of the sound allowed in the venue.
Turn, as Fran Healy tells us, is about not giving up and this is a proper sing-a-long number with a opportunity for the band to smash banging chords in the final part of the song and there is no doubt they are loving bringing it loud to Belfast.
The weather is kind tonight and there is no rain to accompany Why Does It Always Rain On Me, just the sound of thousands of people singing their hearts out and that is what live music is all about. Every single person knows every word. And the crowd delivered when Healy said it was demanded from the audience at every Travis show to pogo along to the last chorus. And Belfast did.
Blue Flashing Light provides a rousing finish to “The Man Who” part of the show.
Good Feeling kicks it off again and Side gives the line ‘neighbours got a new car that you wanna drive’. For Travis tonight that new car is a Saab. It is reliable and smooth but still looks fantastic even after twenty years.
Fran Healy talks about having written My Eyes about becoming a parent and the additional fact now about how he has to endure the torturous online game Fortnite. He doesn’t seem that impressed.
This gig has really lit up now and Sing has the crowd moving along on the proverbial crest of a wave. The break before the encore is thankfully short before the band emerge to deliver two final songs. They have fantastically covered Britney Spears first number one Hit Me Baby One More TIme on many occasions and it now slots into their set perfectly. Who knows, maybe one day Britney may be in town and join the band on stage.
They finish with the triumphant Happy and at 11pm this Belfast audience departs, thankfully still dry and having witnessed ultimately two shows within one. Homage to a fabulous album in “The Man Who” and the second half of the show that ultimately brought the whole gig experience together. It was indeed an extremely enjoyable night and hopefully we will be seeing both bands on the bill tonight back in Belfast very soon.