It was the kind of show where you stand practically ankle-deep
in cigarette butts and spilled beer. You never stop moving, never
stop grooving. You grit your teeth and bear the sting of sweat in
your eyes and groove harder.
Blues Traveler travelled to town Thursday night, and wound up
putting on a mind-boggling, marathon, religious experience of a
show for an anxious crowd of 1,200. Through two and one half
hours of bone-crunching, throaty blues harmonica and infectious
guitar riffs thrown in for good measure, the crowd danced and
danced some more, while frontman and harmonica virtuoso John
Popper led the band's powerful charge ever forward.
Drawing heavily from the band's self-titled debut recording, as
well as the follow-up effort, Travelers And Thieves,
Blues Traveler screamed through crowd favorites "Dropping
Some NYC," "Mulling It Over" and "Alone"
among others. Strangely enough, music from Save His
Soul, the album the band is promoting with this tour, was
not the prominent feature of the show.
Blues Traveler played several searing tunes from its upcoming
release, most notably, the blistering "Stand," much to
the delight of the crowd. The new album, tentatively titled
13, is likely due in August. Another tour is sure to
follow. Guitarist Chan Kinchla said before the show that the band
enjoy playing new songs on the road.
"Playing them on the road is definitely a nice way to help
develop songs. We're always writing songs and bringing them on
the road, it's a good way to test them out, even before they get
on record," he said.
Frontman and harmonica genius John Popper, fresh out of a wheelchair to
which he was relegated after a serious motorcycle accident, required the
use of a stool from time to time to support himself, but the energy of the
show never sagged, even when sound techs couldn't get Popper's acoustic
12-string plugged into the sound system. Kinchla provided
laid-back, rhythmic riffs interspersed with incredible solos,
while unassuming bassist and resident Deadhead Bobby Sheehan
remained the band's foundation, coming out only occasionally for
a richly-textured and usually innovative solo.
Perhaps the greatest thing about the music of Blues Traveler is
the fact that it sounds so natural and grooves so well that you'd
swear you grew up listening to it. But the music's grounding in
the blues tradition is more apparent in the band's approach to
performance than in the actual songs, Kinchla says.
"Playing traditional blues didn't really suit us, because
we're four white kids from the suburbs, not black guys from the
Mississippi Delta. But we really love the style and approach that
they took to it. We just applied it to our kind of music,"
Popper's occasional call-and-response and brilliant,
auctioneer-style scatting augmented the already rock-solid show,
and only added to the frenzy that overtook the crowd even before
Popper could be seen strolling onto the stage, trademark fedora
perched atop his head.
Despite Blues Traveler's marked absence from local airwaves, the
Cain's show sold out, which surprised a lot of people, including
the band members.
"I was hoping that we would [sell out]. Word of mouth is
pretty much how we do things, and I was just hoping that word of
mouth was strong enough to make it out to Tulsa, Oklahoma and be
able to sell this place out," Sheehan says.
"We've put songs on the radio, and done videos, but they get
to where they get. It hasn't been mainstream, which is kind of
nice. That gives us a chance to work it up on a slow and real
level," says Kinchla.