Travis/Turin Brakes - Birmingham Symphony Hall, 25/06/2018

Travis/Turin Brakes – Birmingham Symphony Hall, 25/06/2018

Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian have been trading as Turin Brakes for almost 20 years and eight studio albums now, and along with long-time bandmates Rob Allum and Eddie Myer they take to the stage of the lavish Symphony Hall and play a set of old and new material to perhaps serve as a reminder to those who maybe lost touch with them along the way. It’s likely that quite a few here would have bought their 2003 Top 5 album Ether Song, and it’s now likely that some will go out and buy this year’s Invisible Storm, from which the muscular ‘Lost In The Woods’ is a highlight tonight.

What might be surprising to a casual observer is quite how powerful the band are; Knights’ voice soars and sounds better than ever, and when they deliver their biggest hit, a supercharged ‘Pain Killer’, it’s a real moment. Even better is the gorgeous ‘Fishing For A Dream’ from 2005’s Jack In The Box, beginning with Knights and Paridjanian facing each other with acoustic guitars and blooming into a euphoric full band number. Paridjanian’s subtle but essential backing vocals light up their material throughout, and another old favourite ‘Underdog (Save Me)’ caps an excellent 45 minute set.

The Man Who, Travis‘ second album, was one of those records that seemed to be in totally the right place at the right time, (perhaps like Urban Hymns or Different Class); after a slowish start, a triumphant Glastonbury appearance caught the nation’s imagination and the record clocked up sales in excess of 2.6 million, a staggering figure especially when compared to sales by similar artists today.

It’s interesting to see how bands approach ‘full album’ shows; would it be a few other songs first (a la The Jesus & Mary Chain) or even playing with the formula and mixing up the order of the songs (as OMD did with their joint Architecture & Morality / Dazzle Ships show a couple of years back).

When the opening twang of ‘Writing To Reach You’, both the first single and first track from The Man Who sounds out, it soon becomes apparent that Travis’s approach is a faithful recreation of the album in full. So much so that normally talkative frontman Fran Healy utters not a word as the first half of the record, including the brilliantly quiet/loud gem ‘As You Are’ as well as second single ‘Driftwood’. At the half way point though, the dialog begins and Healy admits to sometimes forgetting he is playing live when reproducing the whole album!

‘Turn’ begins with a tale about how it was fuelled by nuclear energy due to it being conceived on a Scottish island with a power station, and the ubiquitous (in the late 90s / early 00s at least) ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ comes with the admission that Healy persuaded the record company to release it to coincide with Wimbledon as it always rains there, and would make an excellent soundtrack, only for it to be an unusually completely dry Wimbledon…that the song actually charted in August draws some suspicion to this story, however, entertaining as it was!

As the album closer, ‘Slide Show’ ends, the enormous backdrop of the album’s cover falls to the floor to be replaced by blue flashing lights and the unexpected extra of the ‘secret extra track’ (no 90s album would be complete without 10 minutes of silence after the ‘final’ song only for an additional song to appear out of the nothingness). The song is called ‘Blue Flashing Light’, so perhaps the light show should have been a clue.

The band disappear shortly then return for an extended encore, including the title track of their debut album Good Feeling (complete with excellent piano break from ‘Dave’, who the crowd are directed to point at during his moment in the spotlight), and a bounty of smash hits including the irresistible ‘Sing’ and the wonderful ‘Closer’ before a second and final encore of the Britney Spears classic ‘…Baby One More Time’ (which unknowingly launched a thousand sometimes ill-advised ‘Live Lounge’ covers!) and debut hit ‘All I Wanna Do Is Rock’.

Main photo courtesy of Travis Facebook page

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.