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Blues Traveler put on a high-energy performance
by Eric Eagan, Carolyn Marcille
SUNY Fredonia Leader, Fredonia, NY
Oct 8th, 2001

For homecoming weekend, Spectrum brought in two bands to perform for the Fredonia state campus on Oct. 6. Defender opened for the highly anticipated showcase band, Blues Traveler, in Steele Hall.

Defender's loudest cheers came in the beginning of their set, when they announced that they were from New York City. The rest of the show was devoted to the rock-star longings of their lead singer, who proceeded to bounce around the stage, and drink beer.

The music itself was not bad, but the lyrics needed some work. Remember, rhyming everything doesn't make you sound cool. If you write a song about how poor you are, don't wear hundred dollar pants during your set. There simply wasn't a definable sound produced, even after 45 minutes. The technical difficulties didn't make things any easier. There was a problem with the drummer's kick pedal, and during the downtime, the lead singer and the other guitarist played the theme song to "Welcome Back Kotter", and nobody got it.

The band talked about a "mystical on stage and back stage experience," a funny joke once, however they harped it to death with about five jokes in a row. If they really wanted to be funny, they should have just said 'hey everybody, we're high now and we're gonna get high after the show.' It makes me wonder how they were picked to open for Blues Traveler. What were the promoters trying to do? You would think that they would at least pick a band that sounded a little bit like the headliners. Defender sounded like Matchbox 20 opening for Rusted Root. I couldn't tell if they were trying to make Blues Traveler look better, or if they were just making fun of Defender. So, when the set was over the band left to warm yet unenthusiastic applause from the Steele Hall audience.

After almost an hour wait, with the crowd getting anxious and bored with nothing to do besides watch the crew set up, a slimmed-down John Popper and his band, Blues Traveler, took the stage.

Popper known for his outstanding harmonica playing did not disappoint in that aspect. He opened the show with a dazzling, yet, confusing rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Most of the audience didn't even realize what he was playing it until the end of the song.

The energy brought by the band was great. It was a charge that was sorely needed, and it was a great deal. How many schools can get a band of national caliber for only ten dollars? Popper and the band never relented as they mixed new songs with old ones, but because most of their songs aren't chart toppers, the reaction the band received came when the band played songs such as "Carolina Blues", "Run-Around" and of course their infamous "Hook."

Unlike many Blues Traveler concerts of the past, Popper didn't take the spotlight. He let his band members each have at least one solo section while he took a break and had some tea on stage. The band, which consists of bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and a drummer, took center stage at times to showcase their skills.

In past shows, Blues Traveler was very different. Popper seemed very angry, and they blew through sets without so much as a 'hello Fredonia.' So the fact that Popper seemed happy and comfortable with himself was wonderful and the joy that he feels was shown through the music he was playing. His newfound sense of self was energizing and engaging.

Conversely, the worst part of the set was the fact that long and shapeless jams got boring after awhile. Many audience members left after they played their biggest hit, "Run-Around." The audience obviously wanted to hear hits, and became restless when those songs were not readily given, no matter how amazing the jams might be. But "Run-Around" was really cool. Before they played it, Popper dedicated it to all the "metal fans" in the audience, then played the song with a harder feel than before.

With the band closing with "Hook," and the crowd wanting more, Blues Traveler came back out and played an amazing version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." After a standing ovation, the band and Popper threw the audience drumsticks, guitar picks and the all-important harmonicas that Popper uses in his songs.