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Blues take it away at University Hall
by Dan Botwinik, Matt Varthalamis
Cavalier Daily, Charlottesville, VA
Nov 23rd, 1998

Although attendance for Saturday's Blues Traveler concert at University Hall was not especially impressive, the popular band captivated its audience with melodic blues riffs.

University Union sold 2,800 tickets and U-Hall holds 4,500 people. Union Executive Coordinator Katrina Foelche said the organization lost money on the performance, although she would not comment on the amount.

While the opening band Tragically Hip performed, it became obvious from the crowd's blasť attitude that the majority of them was waiting for Blues Traveler frontman John Popper to come out with his famous harmonicas.

The crowd's level of intensity surged as Popper and the rest of Blues Traveler took the stage. The band opened with the well-known radio hit "But Anyway", and although a few people in the stands got to their feet to dance, most of the crowd remained seated (as they did throughout the show). Those who were on the floor displayed slightly more energy, but were fewer in number.

In the heart of Blues Traveler's music lies John Popper's blazing harmonica solos. Even dissatisfied members of the crowd seemed impressed with his amazing musical talents. In fact, Popper also wowed the audience with his guitar abilities throughout the concert.

The band wonderfully covered the classic Charlie Daniels Band song, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Popper's searing harmonica solos interestingly replaced the original's strings and making it one of the concert's most memorable pieces.

At every concert, there are the die-hard fans who will be satisfied with everything the band plays. This was the case Saturday night, although many fans were disappointed that the band left out arguably their biggest hit, "Run-Around".

The band filled that gap later in the show with a creative rendition of Steve Miller's classic "The Joker". They adapted the common rock song to their style of lengthy jamming, extending it with frequent solos. For the average rock fan, this style could be tedious and boring. But for musicians and blues fans, the band offered an enjoyable and mellifluous set.

The band also included a powerful version of their hit "Hook" off of its multi-platinum album four. Popper ended the song with staccato vocals that were so energetic the crowd began to sing along.

At the end of the show, Popper gave some members of the audience something to remember the band by when he threw harmonicas and guitar picks out into the crowd.

After the show, fans gave mixed reviews.

"'The Devil Went Down to Georgia' was an amazing interpretation of a classic song," first-year College student Mark Brzozowski said.

However, first-year College student Viet Nguyen said he felt the band dragged out the songs and was not concerned with what the crowd wanted.

Still, Saturday's performance was enjoyable-both for true Blues Traveler fans and for those just looking for something different to do.