'The Invisible Band' rocks D.C.

Much has changed for Travis since the 2001 release of "The Invisible Band." For starters, Coldplay has overtaken the treasured spot as biggest mid-tempo Brit-pop act in the world. Drummer Neil Primrose faced a potentially band-ending neck injury in a diving accident. Songwriter Fran Healy has ditched his trademark mohawk, and more importantly his sentimental, and sometimes cheesy, love songs in favor of politically and socially-aware anthems.

Front man Healy, poetically dressed in white, held little back from Thursday's sold out 9:30 club crowd. He often explained song content and preached his views on peace and acceptance. Much to Healy's dismay, the crowd wasn't listening. Instead, the J. Crew clad, male-pattern-baldness-suffering 30-somethings used the time to impatiently shout song requests.

Early in the set Travis performed its current single, "Re-Offender." The song ironically contrasts the lyrical imagery of domestic violence with an infectious melody. Healy relished the idea of commercial radio playing a song about a topic seldom tackled.

Prior to performing "Peace The F- Out," Healy introduced the song by discussing the war in Iraq, as well as the state of music downloads. "The whole world has gone crazy," Healy said. He then commented on the ridiculousness of the RIAA suing a 12-year-old girl.

Healy introduced the new ballad "How Many Hearts," as a crossroads he experienced prior to his recent engagement. Healy looked back on all of his prior relationships before proposing to his girlfriend, and the song is the result of that reflection.

The highlight of the evening was the performance of "Slide Show," the closing track on "The Man Who" album. In the middle of the song, guitarist Andy Dunlop scaled a 12-foot stack of amps, and soloed from its top, resembling rock icon Slash in his peak form.

By the end of the evening, Travis proved to the crowd - especially any skeptics - just why the United Kingdom is so fond of the Scot rockers: the refreshing honesty of a band not preoccupied with pretension or image, but instead the straightforward style of letting music speak for itself.

Young pop rockers Rooney opened, combining the youthful optimism of Weezer's debut with the synth-heavy sounds of ELO. Much to the band's frustration, Rooney has been unable to transcend the 15-year-old girl fan base.

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