- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

After a two-year absence from music, Travis, the Brit pop quartet from Scotland, is back on the scene, stopping Thursday evening in the District at the 9:30 Club.

Their time away was not any easy one. At one point they literally became a version of their third LP, “The Invisible Band,” after a swimming accident nearly paralyzed drummer Neil Primrose. Miraculously, he was back at his drum set three months after the mishap to the delight of their millions of fans worldwide. Travis will be rockin’ for many years to come.

Opening for the group on its’ short seven-city U.S. tour was Rooney, a Los Angeles rock outfit which performed an inspired set despite the clear fact that the sellout crowd was there to see the headline act. Playing the majority of songs off their newly-released self-titled major label debut, their sound and look were highly reminiscent of The Strokes and Kings of Leon. Resemblance aside, Rooney’s performance is an encouraging sign that rock ‘n’ roll is still alive and well in the United States.

As for the headliners, touring in support of their recently released fourth CD, “12 Memories,” Travis weaved through a solid 90-minute set that was more than half filled with new material and intertwined with several previous hits, such as “Writing to Reach You” and “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”

One of the most glaring differences in their new tunes is the shift from lovesick songs about loneliness and relationships gone awry, to somewhat darker themes like domestic abuse and the war in Iraq. Frontman Francis Healey attempted to clear up any confusion, stating that the band’s new material is “not political but personal.”

That personal touch to songwriting has always been one of Travis’ strong points and the connection shines through in live performances, prompting smiles Thursday with the opening song “Happy to Hang Around” and other moments that seemingly brought the frontman to tears. On “The Beautiful Occupation,” for instance, Mr. Healy wore his emotional ties to his music like a badge of honor.

Backing Mr. Healy were the three other Glasgow lads — Douglas Payne, Andy Dunlop and Mr. Primrose. Yet none could out-perform his falsetto as it soared above the audience, cutting through the guitar distortion and only getting stronger as the night wore on.

By the end, the four Scottish mates left the sellout crowd with more than 12 memories — more like 17 to 20, if you count the encore.

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