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A Journey to Remember: Blues Traveler at the Fieldhouse
by Mike Myer
Bradley Pulse, Peoria, IL
Nov 13th, 1998

Blues Traveler and Royal Fingerbowl played to a packed house at Bradley's Robertson Memorial Field House Nov. 6.

The set was marked by exciting performances and extended jams by Traveler: John Popper (vocals, harmonica), Chan Kinchla (guitar), Bob Sheehan (bass) and Brendan Hill (drums).

The good

Blues Traveler played an excellent set. Say what you will about the length and frequency of their extended jams, but it cannot be denied that there were some points in the show, such as "Crash Burn" and "Brother John," during which the band was just smoking. I personally went in almost completely ignorant of Blues Traveler's music and came out wanting much more, which is certainly an indicator of a great live show.

In particular, bassist Sheehan and drummer Hill, who combine into one of the best rhythm sections in the game, played an excellent set. If you became bored by Popper or Kinchla's constant soloing, you always could listen to Sheehan's hypnotic walking bass lines or Hill's tight, jazzy drumming.

Also, the band peppered their set with some recognizable covers such as "Low Rider" (originally by War), "Gloria" (originally by Them featuring Van Morrison) and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (originally by the Charlie Daniels Band). The crowd went crazy for these, especially "Devil," which closed the band's normal set.

The bad

Royal Fingerbowl. The New Orleans band was far too loud and played far too long. They were armed to the teeth with melody-free songs about such once-cutting-edge-but-now-passť topics as masturbation, postal insanity and kidnapped girlfriends. If their set wasn't so long and obtrusive, it would be perfect "music to take your seat by," but as it was, I still haven't seen a good opening act in my now fairly extensive concert-going experience. Personally, I was waiting for Gwar to come out and kill them. For those who enjoyed their set (I'm sure there were some of you), their debut is called Happy Birthday, Sabo and was released last year. It features the songs they played live.

The beginning of Blues Traveler's set was marred by technical problems. During the opener, "Carolina Blues," Popper's harmonica went from inaudible to vaguely audible to so loud it was conflicting with Kinchla's overdriven guitar, which is not something that should be happening. Granted, the fieldhouse probably is not the best place to stage a concert, but as long as the crew took changing the set, these things shouldn't have been a problem.

Blues Traveler's interaction with the crowd left quite a bit to be desired. Popper merely stood there in his own little harmonica-filled world most of the show, and Sheehan was just as out there. Only Kinchla, who was constantly bopping around the stage and attempting eye contact with audience members, attempted to break the mold and bond with the crowd, but since most of the people in attendance were looking at Popper (the band's resident celebrity), they were left feeling that the band would rather be somewhere else.

The ugly

Obviously, by the end of the set, the band would rather have been somewhere else.

The primary reason for this was the extremely poor crowd Bradley produced for this occasion.

I understand a college crowd is going to be a little bit more difficult to entertain than a crowd full of fans of the band (which is why I would never do a college tour in a million years - kudos to Blues Traveler). To most of the students who paid $3 for their tickets, going to this concert was just "something to do," and their behavior reflected that.

For example, being asked once by the volunteer staff of ushers to put out a cigarette/joint/whatever that was being smoked is to be expected. There is no smoking in the fieldhouse (which probably had more than its fair share of fire hazards that night anyway), something that was made quite clear with a quick trip through the lobby. If not, one encounter with the staff should be enough.

Instead, several people found it amusing to keep lighting up, antagonizing a staff of peers that had better things to do than tell the same couple of idiots to put out their cigarettes countless times.

This is not only disrespectful to the staff, it is disrespectful to the band.

Also along the same lines, the crowd's complete lack of interest in the music with which they were unfamiliar was disheartening. Four songs in there were people shouting for "Hook," and five songs in, everyone who was more than 15 rows back was in their seats.

I understand that not everybody has the entire Blues Traveler catalog committed to memory, but I was honestly under the impression that if the band were to open with "Run-Around" and close with "Hook" as the next song, most of the crowd would have left happy.

But I still haven't heard anyone say they didn't get their $3 worth, and I suppose that is enough.

I seriously doubt that Blues Traveler will have very kind things to say about Peoria, though.