Blues Traveler - live
I love Blues Traveler. I love John Popper's pop sense, it is amazing. Few craft great three and four minute rocks better than Popper. I mean, Goo Goo Dolls are decent... but most of that is pussy rock. Blues Traveler do great catchy songs, that don't seem like sell out swill, probably because they write their own songs. Don't assume every song you hear on the radio was written by the person singing it. Like the old days, artists are bringing in ringers more and more.
Also, John Popper rocks the harp like no other alive. So, you can imagine how awesome a Blues Traveler show would be, right? Wrong. I have seen them twice, years apart. Both shows were the worst shows I have ever seen in rock. Were they having an off night? No, because they were doing what they do live... which is a mystery to me. So, how can one of my favorite studio bands be the absolute worst band live? Here is how:
The first thing is they don't play any hits, not a single one. This band has so many excellent songs, and the band hasn't cooled off. Just recently, a thin Popper knocked out 'Back in the Day'. In fact, I saw that tour... they didn't play it either. Now, a band should feel free to dig back into their catalogue, and not be tied to whatever Clear Channel may opt to shill, right? Of course, but for the love of god play a hit now and again. Here is the other beef, every song becomes an 18 minute hippie blues jam. You know, like a Phish or Dead concert. If you read here, you know I am a HUGE Deadhead. When you see the Dead, you expect some pointless jams and musical meandering. It's ok, we're all on drugs... and so were they. But Blues Traveler? John Popper is a right wing gun nut, so I didn't expect a jam session.
Lastly, he plays that harp incessantly. Both shows gave me a piercing headache. Popper doesn't sing in concert, nor does he play guitar (both of which he is awesome). No, a Blues Traveler show is a three hour harmonica solo... which is actually about six songs. Don't believe me? Check out 'Alone' on that Live disc they released a few years ago... it is still prattling on somewhere.
The band is going to be around for a long time, because Popper looks really healthy since his bypass surgery. So, here is my tip to save the band:
When playing live:
no song longer than 5 minutes
since the harmonica player is also the lead singer and rythym guitarist... song should not have more than 20% harmonica content
I want HITS > back in the day, hook, but anyway, run around, gina, alone
show lasts no longer than 90 minutes
So, that is my request to the band as a fan. Play the music I hear on the radio. Concerts are WAY too expensive to fuck around to hear someone tuning their instruments for three hours.
OR, and I am offering an OR... because I care. Blues Traveler needs to stop releasing really great music and just release those live tracks of songs going on for 18 to 25 minutes each where absolutely nothing is played or accomplished outside of constant piercing harmonica solos without verse, chorus, or melody. You have your assignment, boys. Not get out there and make some music, please.