"We don't want to start any shit, but we want to dedicate this one to
Matthew and all of our friends we miss," John Popper said of slain UW
student Matt Shepard, before launching into a rousing and lengthy
performance of "Sweet Pain" during last Saturday's concert at UW's A&S
For the much appreciated dedication, Blues Traveler played the power
ballad from their Travelers and Thieves, with a full heart, while
Popper grimaced and swayed, it seemed as though he actually cared to be
playing the gig.
It only took him half the show to do it.
Though guitarist Chan Kinchla did his animated best to bounce most
everywhere on the stage, his blond-dyed locks whizzing through the air,
the beginnings of Blues Traveler's show were the blues. Popper hunched
close to his mic, motionless, as the band made mediocre of the
radio-friendly "But Anyway."
Kinchla continued to raise his fire throughout the show, rocking away a
distorted solo on the Blues Traveler gem, "Gina," though he saw little
interaction from Popper. Only during a spirited cover of the Rolling
Stones' "Miss You" did Popper even take note of Kinchla, finally allowing
the hyperactive guitarist's energy to channel into the stout lead
vocalist's performance, just in time for the sweet up-tempo balladry of
It's been over a year since the group put out a record, their last being
the dull Straight On Till Morning, and it was curious if the band
had been up to any new writing. A college tour like the one Blues Traveler
has included UW in is a good chance for the band to test some new
material. They did that with "Her and Me," a typical Blues Traveler tune,
boasting nothing more than Popper taking a break from his harp to show his
chops on guitar, which, surprisingly, wasn't half bad. It seems Blues
Traveler could very well be stuck in that Morning rut, "Her and Me"
revealing such square lyrics as, "She believes she'll do anything, but she
won't follow me."
Blues Traveler knows their latest songwriting doesn't amount to the past
hits, but they're smarter than to simply rely on the golden oldies to keep
their careers in motion. That's why they skipped a performance of their
popularity-gaining "Run-Around." For better or worse, they've got to keep
the ball rolling, and that may be a good reason why they've ventured out
on this low-key, low-publicity tour, to gain new interests of an audience
that not so long ago had put them on top of the radio charts.
They couldn't avoid all of their successful material, and they couldn't
avoid making those tunes the highlights of the evening. "The Mountains Win
Again" was easily one of the better performances - Popper and Kinchla
meeting again, this time instrumentally, on a climactic solo - as well as
As the band finished the show with an encore performance of John Lennon's
"Imagine," Popper finished his harp solo and tossed it out to the
But he should be careful where he throws his harp.
Right now, it's hard to tell if that harp will land at the Hall of Fame or
the pawn shop counter.