It’s music week, boys and girls, which means live shows three days in a row, late nights, dancing, beer, and unrepentant joy. Every October at least two (it’s been as many as five) of our favorite bands swoop through town, and we go to every single show, since these bands don’t fuck around: they’ve got a different set list for us every night. Amen, brother.
Last night was one for old times’ sake, Blues Traveler. I thought I’d already seen them at every possible venue in this city over the years, but they found a new one to add to my list, the Highline Ballroom all the way over in Chelsea.
I had mixed feelings about going to this show. The last time I’d seen the band three years ago, it seemed like they were just dialing it in, with lazy set lists to boot. I didn’t want to walk away from yet another Traveler gig feeling like the glory days were dead and buried (even though they are). But, honestly, there’s no way I could pass on a BT show–they’ve given me too many happy memories over the 12+ years I’ve been going to their shows (I met Husband at the 7/3/98 show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, for example). Plus there’s always that tantalizing chance that they’ll pull out something really great from the vault and just bring us back, back to our years of optimism and spontaneity.
And so. They took the stage at 10 PM and got right to it, opening with “Sweet Talking Hippie.” I’d been sitting at a table in the balcony with Husband and some of his taper friends, but as soon as I heard the opening chords of “Hippie,” there was NO WAY I could remain seated. In about, ooh, three seconds I was downstairs, shimmying my way towards the center of the crowd.
These days, I feel most like myself when I’m wearing running shorts, a technical tee and sneakers. But back in the day, I was most at home like this: dressed in jeans, little tee, Puma’s, a beer in hand, facing the stage, chin tilted up, chest catching the reverberation from the drums and bass guitar. I knew exactly what to do, what was expected of me, I understood their language. I still do, of course, but the resultant joy feels more like a revisiting rather than a discovery.
After “Hippie,” they segued right into “Stand,” another personal favorite–the beat plows forward, Popper’s harp and Chan’s guitar jangle and whine over the bass in a touch-and-go that makes my neck itch with pleasure, and the lyrics are profound and true. It’s quite possible I laughed with happiness–how did they know? Who told them I’d be so pleased if they played this song? Wow and Thank You.
Some listening was bittersweet, a couple of their songs have strong connections to discrete moments lived with specific people. “But Anyway” is perhaps the best song they’ve ever written, perfect in so many ways; and the atmospheric “Regarding Steven” rips my heart out with its sense of regret-laden wonder.
Those tunes I never expected to hear–“What’s for Breakfast?” And “Trina Magna” just blew me away; they are, respectively, an antsy growl of satisfaction and a sometimes-tinkly, sometimes-fierce cry of life.
One thing Blues Traveler always does is rock the encore, and for that I respect them. They could return to stage, rush through a perfunctory “Hook,” blow us a kiss, and be gone. Other bands do that. While not their Greatest Encore Ever (here I trust Husband will post in the comments his thoughts on the G.E.E.), BT definitely worked for us, breaking out the classic, effervescent “Gina,” and we even had the semi-expected treat of Chris Barron from the Spin Doctors sitting in on vocals for their trademark cover of “Joker.”
Most definitely, this show was worth me missing my bedtime by nearly four hours. Heck, it’s worth a lot more than that–this is one for the memory bank.
Next up: two nights of Galactic at Irving Plaza. In this case, I have no doubt their performances will be fabulous. Can’t wait!
Before I forget: I ran 4 miles yesterday morning, two easy Sunnyside loops, for recovery from Wednesday’s speed workout. Today’s a rest day–in every sense of the word.
Sweet Talking Hippie>
How You Remember It
Defense & Desire>
Mulling It Over*
Back in the Day
You Reach Me>
I Want You to Want Me
Orange in the Sun (a new tune, I think that’s what it’s called)
You, Me and Everything
What’s For Breakfast
*-w/ Faloo on vocals/scat. She was Indian, and basically jammed with her voice in traditional style true to her heritage. Very cool stuff.
**-John on acoustic guitar
***-w/ Chris Barron and Lisa Bouchelle on vocals