October 12, 2009
Oh Largo, you’re like a dependable old lover. Even when I try to walk away from you altogether, you lure me back in with the pull of good music and the allure of your distanced “I’m going to serve you from behind the safety of this gate” stance. Although I successfully resisted your temptation since Butch Walker played there December 4, 2008, you sucked me in once again.
And it was even better than I remembered.
“Trust a little in Largo” was the door guy/ticket guy/MC’s response to a question I asked about seating. I’m sure he has a name and I’d like to know it because he’s one of the reasons Largo exceeded my expectations tonight. The other reason is, of course, Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop (Travis).
Healy explained that the concept of this tour was to play songs chronologically from the first song he wrote to the most recent song he’s written. The idea is that they’ll write a new song every couple of days, and perform the new song as the last song of the set in the next city they play. “At the end of the tour, we hope to have written an entire new Travis album,” Healy remarked.
Whereas the model has been: make a record and then go on tour to support it, Healy and Dunlop flipped the model to: go on tour to support the making of the record.
Already, I loved them.
Then they played the songs, each preceded by Healy’s entertaining commentary. Healy introduced “20” as a song he wrote when he was 19, realizing the best years of his life may be coming to an end with his twentieth birthday. “People make a big deal out of turning 21,” Healy said. “But really, it’s 20 that’s the big deal because that’s when 17, 18, 19 come to an end. And those are the best years because you’re doin’ everything for the first time.” Healy also noted that this is the first song he wrote that he felt was a good song; a sign that he could make a career out of this.
If there’s one thing I like better than ice cream, it’s a funny musician. Healy introduced “All I Want To Do Is Rock” by showing a slide show about Scotland. He gave a humorous geography lesson and then ended the slide show with a picture of his view from the window in the building where he wrote the song. There was a longer story about “Turn” which boiled down to being “a song about wishes. A song full of wishes.”
“It’s an A&R man’s dream when a lead singer gets chucked,” Healy reflected. “Now he’ll write some proper songs,” said Healy, mocking the overjoyed A&R guy. This insight set the stage for Healy and Dunlop’s performance of “A Funny Thing.”
“Flowers In The Window” was written in a house where Travis once stayed. The host introduced the band to the home saying, “Everybody writes a song here.” Rebelliously, Healy thought to himself, “well, I’m not writing a song here.” But that all changed after he received inspiration while looking at flowers in the yard, through a window (and his obstructed view the morning after).
It seemed as if the guys were playing all my favorite Travis songs. In addition to the songs previously mentioned, they played “Good Feeling” and “As You Are”; “Writing To Reach You” and “Sing.” Tonight was the 4th night in a row they played Largo and Healy said they’ve changed the set every night. Although the songs themselves may change, one thing is consistent night to night – Healy and Dunlop remain true to the original concept, playing the songs chronologically during each performance.
Healy spoke about the inspiration for “Why Does It Always Rain On Me” which was written during a trip to Israel. Somebody told him it would be sunny there (his one prerequisite for the vacation) so he journeyed to Israel. The moment Healy arrived it began raining, and this song was written.
Healy also spoke about the lyric: “I’m being held up by an invisible man.” “The invisible man is the A&R guy or manager who’s holding you up (supportively) so you can finish the record. Of course, there’s a double entendre — they’re ‘holding you up’ (Healy positions his hands as if they’re guns) for the record as well.” Healy looked at the audience and continued, “I’ve never explained that to anyone before.” Then he looked at Dunlop, “I don’t think I even told you that. . .” Dunlop nodded in agreement.
Another lyric Healy discussed is: “pillars turn to butter” from the song, “Driftwood.” He was looking to complete the lyric with the idea of one thing evolving into another, to follow the “Nobody”/”Everyone” dichotomy of the previous line. “Caterpillars turn to butterflies” was the original line, but it was too long to fit the form of the song so Healy abbreviated it to “pillars turn to butter.” “But that changes the meaning again. It’s another good visual – these strong pillars turning to butter,” Healy elaborated.
I spoke with the guys for a bit after the show. Dunlop described how much fun these shows are and how they differ from a typical Travis tour. “We don’t want to get comfortable during these shows. When we’re on tour with Travis, we want to get comfortable because we’re going to be playing these songs over and over again, each night with the band. But here – we don’t want to get comfortable. There are some songs we may play every night, but we make the experience different. Especially since we’re playing four shows in a row at the same venue – we don’t usually do that. We’re aware that some people might come to more than one show and we don’t want them to think, ‘Oh. . . here we go with this again. . .” Dunlop elaborated.
We also discussed the current state of the music business. Healy and Dunlop are now off the major label and releasing music independently. Dunlop reflected, “Music is getting back to what it used to be – small record shops, independent labels, the musician and the fan, spending time with our audience, more intimate shows and settings.”
I asked how they conceived of the idea to go on tour as the central creative process for writing another record. Again, it was to do something different – to keep the tours and the music feeling fresh. Dunlop shared his outlook, “You know, we may get nothing out of it. Or we may get a lot out of it. If nothing else, we get to travel all around and see some beautiful places.”
Then I shared a perspective, telling Dunlop, “We’d like it if you’d release a double-CD; one CD with all the commentary and another with the acoustic song performances.” Dunlop mentioned that they’ve recorded everything from each show so far and that they may release it following the tour.
As of now, if you’re lucky enough to attend one of these shows, you can purchase a CD comprised of 80 minutes of live audio recorded during this tour.