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Blues Traveler returns to rock Rococo
by Melanie Mensch
Daily Nebraskan, Lincoln, NE
Sep 4th, 2002

Although Blues Traveler began its jam show about 30 minutes late Tuesday night at the Rococo Theatre, 13th and P streets, John Popper and his crew wasted only seconds to allow the bluesy rockin' to commence.

Starting off with hard-driven anthem song "Freedom," BT wailed away on both Popper's signature harmonica and the huge coagulation of sound from lead guitarist Chan Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill, bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist Ben Wilson.

Blues Traveler soon followed with "Optimistic Thought" as Popper threw in some classic Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" intertwined with the lyrics.

The crowd, accented by trendy corporate types at the tables, gyrating faithful down near the stage and a few sporting costumes akin to Fred Flintstone's attire and black cat ears (perhaps in honor of the band's logo), cheered heartily and did the usual concert sidestep dance shuffle during "Just For Me."

[image caption Michael Modrcin/DN:
Blues Traveler frontman John Popper and lead guitarist Chan Kinchla play to an enthusiastic crowd Tuesday night at the Rococo Theatre, 13th and P streets. Two lively sets entertained the audience for two solid hours of impressive songs laden with guitar and harmonica solos. The song was simple and uncomplicated, slowing the tempo down a mere shade as Popper worked his harmonica like a seamstress weaves a needle and thread.]

BT continued the soulful, somber mood of the set with the poignant "Regarding Steven," a tribute song to a childhood friend of Popper's whom he abandoned growing up. The song shuddered to a thunderous, slightly angry finish.

Blues Traveler introduced some new songs during the first set as well. "I Can't See Why," laced heavily with bass and drums, provided the kind of thump-thump vibrations that tug at the skeletal bones, no matter where your seat is in the house.

Popper cast the new tune into a downward spiral with a bout of tumultous harmonica playing, bringing desperate, yet chaotic order to "I Can't See Why." The crowd, as the cliche makers say, went nuts.

Kudos to Blues Traveler for its crowd interaction; Popper made the occasional shout-out to the more vocal concert-goers with comments like "Having fun? Cool," and the reciprocal compliment of "We rock? No, you rock."

New song "Sweet and Broken" rode out through the audience like an open palm hanging out a rolled-down car window on a country road firmly riding the passing wind. "Sweet and Broken" sped into its finish as the song melded into the aptly titled "Crash Burn," a song that is the audio equivalent to a car wreck so awesome and sad spectators can't stop looking (or in this analogy, listening).

Tad Kinchla broke out the cello for this somber melody that then transformed quickly into a dark, gravely rendition of the band's mainstream favorite "Run-Around." Imagine this version of the usually poppy radio hit performed by Popper and Co. on a bad, bad day when they pound their fists against the wall and then gulp down a few shots of Jaeger.

But Blues Traveler belted out the normal, happier version of "Run-Around" a few songs later to appease the lesser-educated fans.

The brothers Kinchla got to a-jumpin' during fast-paced "NY Prophesie," where the two resembled human bookends on Popper's sides. The wailer himself only once onstage took a long drag of his cigarette during a short jam session, allowing the exhaled cloud to surround Popper like an apparition.

Their first set lasted an hour but BT returned for a promised round two about 15 minutes later. However, time allowed me to only catch a few songs of the second half, such as "The Path," the catchy new song "Thinnest Of Air" and "Slow Change" where Popper moved his hat to his heart during the chorus for that added emotional touch.

Blues Traveler lauded the Rococo on its Web site, www.bluestraveler.com, last year after the band first came in November, saying "Great theater. Enthusiastic crowd. Hope to get back there soon." Although Blues Traveler made its return within a year's time, perhaps too early for fans and new crowds to get a healthy hankering to see them again, the show was strong, emotional and impressive musically.