Blues Traveler: Some Light in The Darkness
Expecting a few hits and a chance to dance in black lace and jeans after an arduous work week Blues Traveler left my awesomely shocked.I had never heard their tunage extensively other than what KFOG plays (the new cd, Bastardos, and the hits). After last night at the singular San Francisco Fillmore, where I also had the wonderful opportunity to chat with the band after the show, I'm a convert to the Blues Traveler rave up jam cult.
Morever,this was the first time I'd ever heard the blues played without an overlay of dark sadness.Tireless drummer Brendan Hill later told me that any such observation was contingent on mood (apparently they can tear out the anguish should they choose to) Not to doubt this but they have a unique hopefulness in their music that their millions of fans worldwide resonate with and that I would be looking forward to at every gig now that I am a fan.
John Popper's voice,at once so clear, a tad combativly mocking and emotionally powerful stopped me in my tracks. In most rock bands the bass and drummer are married to each other. In BT it feels like the vocalist swaps the drummer for the bassist in an evening of precise musical polygamy! Popper just never loses a beat.He later maintained it was all in the "good gargle."
Neither did their 'new to the fold' bassist Tad Kincila, replacing Bobby Sheehan who died in 1999. Big shoes to fill from what die hard BT fans at the show told me. Tad happily sights John Entwistle as a primary influence so BT made a great choice. The secret weapon last night though was keyboardist Ken Wilson. Able to follow the band like clockwork but still leave that introspective mark that tweaks the audiences emotions. And despite the rythmic lightness, my emotions did start to tweak a bit.The extended jamming (done well) is rarity on stages today. As guitarist Chan Kinchla played his serpentine fret work for what seemed like a non-stop three hour set, John Popper started singing about something that sounded very sad and blue.
That weather vane of feelings inside me started to spin(my date asked me if I was alright) but before the tears popped out,the band sprang back into something uplifting,a unique blend of garage blues band gospel would be the best way to describe it.
Blues Traveler guys have known each other for over half their lives plus a stalwart group of support that has been with them through everything, thus their loyalty comes through in their music. No need to fear a 'Run Around' from these keepers, you'll get a truckload for what ails you. (Though that hit song sounded fantastic live and like any good band they played it twice to make sure everyone got their fill.)
But on a personal note it was being indoctrinated at The Fillmore that made my evening so perfect. Years go by and the vintage posters and incredible photos that encrust the walls like gems just get better and better. John Popper took time out during the set on more than one occasion to thank the late Bill Graham for creating such a gloriously storied venue.