Jamband Spotlight: Blues Traveler

Words by Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)

Longevity is an oft overlooked element when measuring a band’s successes. Many acts have made their millions and slipped away into the dark. Whether they sell out, buy in, or whatever phrase it’s called to help with sleep, there’s no faulting musicians for trying to make money. It is a business, after all. The truly great artists throughout history, however, aren’t in the biz for maximum financial gain. There’s something more to their craft than the bottom line. They realize the importance of longevity, the ability to provide as much to the individuals that appreciate their art for as long as they possibly can.

Blues Traveler is one of these artists. After its fourth album, Four, was released in 1994, the band broke through for huge commercial success. Blues Traveler reached its peak after seven years of relentless touring...the band had finally made it. Consequently, the height of success becomes a crossroads for any band. What do we do now? Are we still the same band as when we began? Thankfully, Blues Traveler took their gains but never lost sight of what it means to perform. The band has played Red Rocks Amphitheater on the Fourth of July every year since 1994 with the exception of 1999...quite an impressive run for a ‘commercial’ act.

I have selected two shows from the archive to showcase Blues Traveler’s energy-filled improvisational blues rock. The first is a performance from 1994 shortly after the band found radio success with its hits “Run Around” and “Hook”. Frontman John Popper’s talents are the always on display during a Blues Traveler show. Whatever it is, he’s got it. The man knows how to channel soul from the depths of experience and it comes through with a old-school vengeance that often is unheard these days. Not only can his vocals shake you down to the core with a single cry, he is arguably the best blues harmonica player in the world.

Blues Traveler Live at Irving Plaza on September 19, 1994. <--- Direct Archive Link

The second offering is a show from April 2007 that features the same old fire the band brought back in the day. Versions of tunes such as “Love and Greed” and “Devil Went Down to Georgia” are smokin’ hot and prove the band hasn’t lost a step in its twenty-four years of existence. The band has persevered. The passing of bassist Bobby Sheenan in 1999, John Popper’s obesity issues, and getting dumped by its record label in 2002 were all obstacles to overcome, and although there was turmoil, the band is still here performing for its fans. The rock and roll lifestyle is difficult as the best find ways to deal with its demons in order to push on for one more. Blues Traveler has conquered these debilitating spirits and has much more to offer us all for hopefully many years to come.

Blues Traveler Live at WorkPlay Sound Stage on April 16, 2007. <--- Direct Archive Link



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