The view of the main floor from the balcony, especially during
the first half ot the Blues Traveler concert Thursday at the
Roseland Theater, resembled a huge school of piranha fish
devouring its prey in seconds.
Except the capacity crowd was dancing and carrying on like that
for more than an hour. And instead of being devoured, Blues
Traveler and its music just got bigger and bigger.
Even up in the horseshoe-shaped balcony, folks bounced the
floor-boards so hard it was like riding a flimsy airplane through
Much harder-rocking and more improvisational than on Blues
Traveler's recordings, Bob Sheehan on bass and Brendan Hill on
drums did more than just establish the groove. They jammed
against themselves through medleys of two or three songs at a
time, with Chan Kinchla on guitar and John Popper on harp pulling
and sometimes pushing them on with their own blistering attacks.
For such an accessible band, the rhythm change-ups were frequent,
but so tightly executed by all four that where they were headed
was never in doubt.
Kinchla's guitar-playing was like all four horsemen of the
apocalypse, while Popper's piercing, shrieking blues-harp
caterwauling spurred the guitarist on.
Even without the harp Popper was awesome, with a vocal range,
expressiveness and strength that could woo Roxanne as well as
slay a hundred men, like the Cyrano de Bergerac he sang of in
"Sweet Pain." ("What better euphemism for the blues?")
That same voice scatted out an electric lead solo in a rousing
and lengthy cover-version of "Gloria," the old Them/Van
Morrison hit that constituted the band's only cover tune.
But then finally the band, and the audience, settled down
somewhat with the poignant "100 Years" and "Whoops" - a new song
"about the environment."
Blues Traveler played for more than another hour, until 1 a.m.,
occasionally approacthing the feverish level of their first
hour-plus. And a few people started to leave, maybe 5 percent by
the end - perhaps suffering from sensory overload, perhaps
disappointed there wouldn't be any traditional, 12-bar blues.
"It won't make a difference in a hundred years," a
Blues Traveler song goes - but there aren't many bands, or songs,
with a better chance of lasting that long.
Widespread Panic, the opening band, was a lot of fun, too, with
two guitarists, a drummer, a percussionist, bass and keyboardist
- and a third guitarist when Jerry Joseph of Little Women was
invited up. Widespread Panic did five or six 20-minute little
symphonies mixing Cajun rock, art rock, polyrhythmic Grateful
Dead-type jamming and outlaw blues.