WHERE: Hyde Park
These days, Travis are the kind of band that sit only in the back of people’s minds. They occasionally come about when it’s raining – usually in the form of a tuneless cry of ‘why does it always rain on meeeee’ – and on other occasions they come about through a throwback music channel.
But in April this year, they released a new album: Everything At Once.
Clash described the record as “a little cheesy and unashamedly earnest … it’s great”, rating it a 7/10, and The Upcoming called it “a soothing blend of melodic rock, uplifting lyrics and calming pop”, awarding it three stars out of five.
And that’s why they’re here today – live in Hyde Park at BBC Radio 2’s Festival in a Day. They’re the festival’s openers, ahead of some of music’s bigger names like Status Quo, Madness and Elton John.
The Scottish quartet start their set with hit single ‘Sing’, a pleasant song that suits the warm, sunny day flawlessly, and as they take to the stage, the sun is shining with just the barest hint of cloud. The track manages to attract a well-deserved reaction – it is, of course, one of their best selling songs – and it goes down a storm.
Not all that’s well ends well, however, as the following number ‘Animals’ is nothing short of underwhelming. The crowd seem to settle down a bit too much, and it’s as if Travis can no longer be bothered to play. Vocalist Fran Healey seems to be a lot weaker than you’d expect, given the strong, impressive style of their studio recordings.
And yet, they still try to pull it back – but not independently, it seems, as they bring on operatic powerhouse Alfie Boe. The song’s called ‘Paralysed’, and Healey’s short anecdote explaining how he and Boe wrote the song together seems to excite Hyde Park’s masses once again. This is another failure – Boe sings for a grand total of about 45 seconds, and his entire lyrical contribution is ‘woah oh oh’. By the end of the three minutes, Travis have fallen flat.
After Boe has left the stage, the group play ‘Side’; it’s easily the highlight of their short set so far. It’s a better reaction than the one given to their last two songs, and the Scots sound better as a whole – for the first time, they sound like they’ve actually rehearsed. Idlewild, however, is just a mediocre song – during the first few notes, it feels like you’re expecting nothing more than an Ocean Colour Scene tribute band. The addition of Mancunian singer Josephine brightens the track up a bit, but inserting some female vocals can’t make an average song any better.
An acoustic version of ‘Flowers in the Window’ somehow manages to redeem Travis, but maybe it’s just too little too late. The audience give the impression that they’re sick of being woken up to fall back asleep again, and thankfully, they end with ‘Why Does It Always Rain on Me?’ – also known as that one song that everybody knows – and anyway, they do say it’s better to burn than to fade away, and maybe that’s where Travis’ finer abilities lie.