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Blues Traveler was well worth the trip
by Geoff Harkness
Lawrence Journal-World, Lawrence, KS
Jul 4th, 2000



Blues Traveler rolled into town Sunday night for an exclusive stop on its recent mini-tour. After losing founding member and bassist Bobby Sheehan last year, the band has regrouped, re-energized itself and hit the road for a few weeks of warm-up gigs. Later this summer, the band will enter the studio to record a new album and try to forget the ghosts of the past year.

Liberty Hall is always a great place to see a good band. The venue's intimacy and quality sound usually make for a good gig, and Sunday was no exception. The 600-seat venue also meant that Blues Traveler's focus was on music rather than showmanship, and the band delivered an exceptional performance that left little doubt as to its future.

Blues Traveler is one of those acts that must be seen live to be understood. While the band's records are crisply produced and tuneful, the group is more powerful and convincing in a concert setting. The set was a jam-packed electric Kool-Aid acid test featuring a heavy dose of driving, freight-train blues and psychedelic-tinted rock.

Vocalist-harmonica god John Popper clearly had the spirit, alternating between tidal-wave-sized blasts of blistering harp work and multi-syllabic, stream-of-consciousness lyrical oddities that often sounded like someone speaking in tongues.

Guitarist Chan Kinchla proved to be Blues Traveler's resident musical genius, and his fluid, bell-tone guitar style was impeccable. His brother, Tad, who has taken over bass duties for the band, was nimble-fingered and ultra-funky while drummer Brendan Hill held down the beats with verve.

Blues Traveler allows audience members to tape its shows and camcorders were abundant throughout the hall.

As great as Liberty Hall is as a concert venue, Blues Traveler's music almost screams to be heard in an outdoor setting, where dogs with bandannas weave between twirling sundress goddesses and bearded, long-haired guys playing with those funny sets of sticks. Still, it didn't seem to matter much to the Sunday-night crowd, who danced the night away like it was the last day of summer.