Words by Sara Reynolds

I was ecstatic to see one of my favourite bands of all time Travis on Monday night at Symphony Hall Birmingham.

Supporting act tonight is Turin Brakes. Playing songs from their new album Invisible storm. A fantastic start to the show with something of the tone of Travis, so they are well matched. There are some fun moments in the set including a funny almost spinal tap moment (I’m sure their crazy haired bass guitarist will concur) where he mounts the front of the stage in stark rock man style silhouette and strums as if he’s in a cross between Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

Some great Turin Brakes classics are also played tonight including ‘Painkiller’ and ‘Underdog’. If you get a chance to see Travis live this year it really is worth turning up early to get a look at Turin Brakes set.

One day a long, long time ago I came across the album ‘The Man Who’, at a friend’s party which was running into the small hours. It’s almost 20 years ago today and I was smitten from the start. ‘The Man Who’ is such a classic album, and in my mind, stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the great albums of the late nineties including ‘Urban Hymns’ by the Verve and Oasis’ ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory’.

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We are treated to the full album tonight, Fran Healey and the rest of the band are so charismatic and fresh on stage it’s hard to believe all that time has passed. I must have listened to this album at least 50 times – and I can honestly say I’ve never got bored of any of the songs which can sometimes happen when you play an album ‘to death’. Fran’s voice is still so strong tonight. Even Oasis’ Liam Gallagher has admitted that his voice has taken some bashing over the years – the tone having changed over time. Here tonight though Fran seems to have found the vocal fountain of youth.

The audience is up on their feet right from the start with some of Travis’ biggest hits including: ‘Driftwood’, ‘Writing To Reach You’ and ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’. It’s obvious there are some avid long term fans here – the Korean lady next to me is following the whole of their British tour!

Fran is full of charm with anecdotes about his time in the music business. Back in the day, they toured supporting Oasis, and he recalled the time Liam Gallagher asked him to play a song for him – any song he chose. He played an acoustic version of ‘Luv’ from ‘The Man Who’ (also played here tonight) to Liam in his backstage trailer. The song is about the end of a relationship and the bittersweet hurt of unrequited love. At the end he looked up and Liam’s face was streaming with tears, and he laughs about how this “big strong lad” was brought to floods of tears by one of HIS songs! I think Fran is being somewhat humble here, as it is clear his song writing ability is a match for the Gallagher brother’s songwriting tour de force. Fran like a lot of great songwriters started writing early, around the age of 12 years old and his craft was already honed by the age of 20.

Fran also says that sometimes he even forgets that he is playing and rather, is lulled into thinking he’s listening to the record instead, (when the rendition is very close to the record he mostly forgets), and it’s only when something goes wrong that he is, occasionally, jolted into remembering. Close your eyes and their stage rendition here tonight is so good, it is very easy to forget you’re not listening to the record! Though open your eyes and you cannot help but know that you’re hearing this live – Fran’s vocal acrobatics seem to stem from the bottom of his feet right up to the very top of his head – a performer that totally connects with the song and with the audience. The audience responds and connects right back, all are on their feet, all singing from the bottom of their lungs like they’re singing the chant of one of their favourite teams – which of course they are!

There’s some great Scots humour in there too, a moment at the front Fran tucks in his kilt just in case there is any camera upskirting – it’s happened to him too he quips.

All-in-all an awesome, funny and nostalgic evening, I’m sure I’ll still be remembering in another 20 years.

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