Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blues Traveler @ Paradise, 10/6/09

When I saw that Blues Traveler was going to play the Paradise Rock Club on October 6th I immediately did a double-take. I remember hearing hits like “Run Around” and “Hook” when I was a little kid but I didn’t realize that the band still toured. Intrigued, I bought a ticket right away.

The show kicked off with “Back in the Day,” off their sixth album, Bridge. John Popper wailed away on the harmonica, showcasing his remarkable skills. If anything, his playing has improved since the late 90s. He continued to showcase his technique on “How You Remember It,” a song from the most recent album, North Hollywood Shoutout. The band focused on heavy jams and fluid transitions between songs. They brought a specialized sound and lighting rig, transforming the cozy and comfortable Paradise into a full-sized amphitheater, which added to the intensity of the show.

Toward the middle of the set, Blues Traveler surprised the crowd by playing Sublime’s “What I Got.” As the audience began to sing along, I realized that everybody in the crowd was at least 30 years old. This contradicted what bassist Tad Kinchla told me during our interview last week about the band building up a younger fan base. I saw maybe five other people with “X’s” on their hands during the night. While reminiscing about their teenage years, a packed Paradise crooned “lovin’s what I got.” After the Sublime cover and taking an on-stage cigarette break, the band transitioned into popular four song “Run Around.” Even though “Run Around” seemed to please the crowd, I couldn’t get their smoke break out of my head. Why was it okay for a band to smoke on stage during a show but people were getting kicked out of the audience for doing the same? Despite my mild irritation, “Run Around” still brought back memories of driving in the car when I was little and of 90s TV specials, making me happily nostalgic. “Run Around” then transitioned into another song—“Support Your Local Emperor” off Blues Traveler’s second album, Travelers and Thieves (1991).

After “Support Your Local Emperor,” the band shifted to a new song about American troops, “Borrowed Time.” Tad had mentioned that the band consistently performs on USO tours and supports the troops. Although I found the song to be a bit slow, it was a worthy testament to military troops nonetheless. After a few more slow songs, Blues Traveler began to play “I Want You to Want Me.” The crowd roared. I had never imagined that a blues version of the song would sound good but it actually worked because the song was still recognizable. At this point in the night, I noticed many people began to leave the show. While Blues Traveler had opened playing to an almost full house, by the end of the show about a quarter of the audience had left. The concert was on a Tuesday, so I assume people either had work in the morning or Blues Traveler did not quite meet the standards the audience had held them to in the 90s.

The final song of the first set was “Hook,” one of Blues Traveler’s most popular hits. It pleased the crowd, and me. Everyone was singing and dancing along to John Popper’s exceptional harmonica solos. This would have been a perfect place for the band to end their set but like every classic 90s band, Blues Traveler came back for an encore. After a brief break, the band came on to perform last song, “The Path,” off of What You and I Have Been Through. The show ended a song earlier for me, but the fans that stuck around seemed to enjoy one more tune. Blues Traveler met all of my expectations during their show. They played a good mix of new and old songs and most of the crowd seemed to really bond with the band. Playing the Paradise was a good choice because it created an intimate, yet stadium-like feeling. In spite of the fact that Blues Traveler may not have been particularly innovative in developing their sound over the past ten years or so, they still put on a lively, energetic, and ultimately worthwhile show.

-Lana Tkachenko

No comments: