The first time Glasgow sees Fran
Healy tonight, he's covering his face with his hands. Only his new blond-tipped
mohican is visible; otherwise Fran's too overwhelmed to look.
In a separate area at the back, the band's dads, girlfriends and nieces look on proudly. Scottish flags are waved in the crowd. And all this a week before Travis due to release their new album, 'The Invisible Band'. When Fran finally removes his hands from his face, he's beaming.
Whatever you think of their tunes, it's that humility that keeps Travis charming. Fran's constant thanks avoid cheesiness because you know he means it. He's not the untouchable rock star but the local boy done good, asking "D'you like the hair? I see that David Beckham's copied it. His looks shit though". When Travis play old hits like 'Writing To Reach You', there's never a hint they're sick of them. Fran still sings every word, each line as fresh and important as the day he wrote it, but the question is whether they're still writing about something we should care about.
Tonight, the songs from 'The Invisible Band' played tonight settle easily enough beside those from previous albums but they're somehow more assured and more prepared to reveal their fragility. There's no giant, stylistic leaps forward but some new tracks already sound like classics. 'Pipe Dreams', for instance, has a lazy strum that lends a feeling of spontaneity Travis sometimes lack as well as a country tinge to offset Fran's lilting resignation. 'Dear Diary' is another plaintive low-key lullaby, extolling the virtues of the diary Fran tells us he's kept since reading 'Adrian Mole' at the age of 12, while Fran's own murder ballad, 'Last Train', is eerily haunting.
But the real indicator that Travis have come of age is Fran's new confidence. Though hardly ever a shrinking violet, this time round he's secure enough to reveal his darkest feelings, his deepest thoughts and a vulnerability that only makes him more endearing. The songs, like his diary, are his way of working through whatever concerns him.
In fact, it's his desire to see all things simply (as in the basic choruses of 'Turn', 'Sing', and new track 'Safe') that can be the most irritating thing about Travis, yet live - backed by a thousand voices - it all makes sense. Fran just believes if you say something often enough, it will happen. It will make it rain, it will make someone sing and it will make you feel safe. It even made four boys from Scotland return home heroes.
This Review by Siobhan Grogan
was Originally on the NME Review Page
the NME Review Page
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