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Blues Traveler rocks Clarion
by Mike Cody
Clarion Call, Clarion, PA
Oct 14th, 1998

On Tuesday night, a quick look inside the Tippin Gym would reveal long-haired teenagers dancing with middle-aged women, a burly man in overalls pumping his fist in the air, and hundreds of people cheering wildly. Blues Traveler just has that effect on people. Roughly 1000 concert goers packed Tippin to see a rare intimate-setting performance from Blues Traveler, whose H.O.R.D.E. Festival was one of the most successful concert packages of this past summer. Even though the band could have viewed their Clarion gig as an easy paycheck and delivered a half-hearted show, Blues Traveler put on a jam-heavy show that people will no doubt be talking about for a long time to come.

The opening act, Michael Parrish Band, had enough rhythm to get the audience moving but their set was ultimately forgettable. The high point of their act came when one of the band members broke into a high-spirited dance at the front of the stage, much to the delight of the crowd. His dancing provided a momentary jolt of excitement that the band's set was otherwise lacking.

Blues Traveler received a huge ovation when they took the stage, the first of many they would hear that night. The cheers continued when they launched into their hit single "But Anyway". Unfortunately, audio problems buried lead singer John Popper's voice for almost the entire first hour and was difficult to hear for much of the show. Throughout the entire evening, Blues Traveler appeared to be having a great time on stage, especially guitarist Chan Kinchla.

Highlights of the show included a special cover of Steve Miller's classic "The Joker". It should be noted that some concert goers who were unfamiliar with Blues Traveler's music aside from their top-40 hits seemed confused by the performance. Those who were expecting a three-hour show of radio-friendly hits no doubt were left disappointed by the band's constant jamming. The biggest disappointment for many fans was that they did not play their Top 40 hit "Hook". Despite repeated chanting from audience members, "Hook" was not included in their set.

Despite Blues Traveler's occasionally overdone jam sessions, their performance was fantastic. The biggest cheers of the show came during an acoustic set, when Popper and the boys played "Run-Around". The audience sang the entire song with Popper and gave a thunderous ovation after "Run-Around" ended. Popper's harmonica skills were simply incredible when experienced live. Blues Traveler's lead singer has played every imaginable instrument from 12-string guitars to 12-gauge shotguns, but is the most impressive of all when he goes ballistic on his harp.

The concert ended with a longstanding Blues Traveler tradition, as the band threw harmonicas into the crowd. Drummer Brendan Hill also got into the act, tossing his drum sticks to the eager fans. Hundreds of people clamored to catch Hill's drum sticks, cheering and clapping as the band left the stage. Although this may be a worn-out cliche, it truly felt like one of the moments rock 'n' roll is all about.