Concert Review: Blues Traveler

Henderson Pavilion, May 17

Anyone playing rock harmonica without emulating the gritty, ferocious style of Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz (J. Geils Band) is anathema to me. Still, I admit to admiring Blues Traveler frontman John Popper. Dude wails. His remarkable if polite playing was evident on a beautiful, breezy night in Henderson Pavilion. As always, the venue’s sound was great. Instead of sitting in my assigned seat, I grabbed a conveniently provided midget lawn chair and plumped down on the grassy hilltop hoping to catch a whiff of reefer. (No such luck, it being Henderson. I didn’t see a single cop or security sack, either.)

Traveler played all the funky jam band songs I wanted to hear—from peppy “You Reach Me,” with Chan Kinchla’s double-time guitar solo, to swampy Southern blues-rocker “Defense & Desire,” with keysman Ben Wilson’s densely reverbed piano interlude. To my disappointment, however, there wasn’t much granola-gyration near the stage an hour into the set. An old radio hit, “But Anyway,” inspired people to stand up at least. Anyhow, watching happy, glowstick-festooned children darting across the grass and the lights of airplanes voyaging through the night sky made it all OK. Certain moments tested me. Like the percussion solo, Popper’s cocktail-lounge ballad “Cara Let the Moon,” and a medley that puzzingly incorporated the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”—there’s not even a violinist in the band. Overall, though, Traveler was the perfect band for a perfect spring evening. ★★★☆☆

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