Blues Traveler – Emo’s – Austin, TX 9/24/15 (SHOW REVIEW)

There’s no denying that the past couple of years have seen a sharp increase of nostalgia for all things 90s. While this is great for those that were in their teens and twenties during that era, it has proved to be fantastic for bands for which that decade was their heyday. Blues Traveler is no exception. Though their current album Blow Up The Moon boasts pop filled tracks in a similar spirit to their signature type of blues rock, it would be hard to imagine them selling as many tickets these days if it weren’t for audience members looking to relive a part of their youth. However, Thursday night’s concert at Emo’s saw Blues Traveler prove that they are a band that has much more to offer than a couple of radio hits.

After taking the stage to Star Wars’ “The Imperial March,” John Popper and co. launched into “You, Me, & Everything” from 2008’s North Hollywood Shootout which had the crowd doing a call and response to the chorus. This segued straight into “Crash & Burn” from their breakout album four. “Things Are Looking Up” included a five-minute bass-solo jam at the end that led into their Grammy Award-winning single “Run-Around”. While older songs like “Gina” and “But Anyway” kept the audience happy and energetic, there wasn’t very much appreciation for their lengthy jams which saw many people carrying on their own conversations while waiting for the next song. It should be noted though that Blues Traveler is, and always has been, a jam band. In 1992 John Popper started the H.O.R.D.E. Festival which featured mainly jam bands and was responsible for bringing attention to bands like Phish and Widespread Panic.

The night also included covers of Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and, Texas’ own, ZZ Top’s “La Grange”. Though they are touring off their new album, the setlist was pretty light on new material. In fact only three new songs made the cut; the pop-heavy “Hurricane”, reggae-infused “Castaway” and title track “Blow Up the Moon” complete with “na-na-nahs”. The crowd went wild as the song many had paid to see closed the set. “Hook” still sounds great more than twenty years later, even if Popper’s voice couldn’t quite hit all the inflections and the quick rhyming bridge didn’t exactly sound as cool as it used to. About half the audience left as the song ended, but those that stuck around were treated with an encore of “The Mountains Win Again”.

While all this 90s nostalgia has been great to catch bands that haven’t toured in a while or haven’t been relevant for just as long, it definitely has its downsides as well. As most former 90s youth are now in their thirties and forties, they have a lot more money to spend to go see a band where they only know one or two songs. As a result, personal conversations during the rest of the material can be a bit trying for those trying to enjoy the rest of the music. However, it’s best to ride the wave of nostalgia now before bands start fading back in obscurity and there is a chance to enjoy their live show while they are still relatively young.

Blues Traveler Setlist Emo's, Austin, TX, USA 2015

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