Blues Traveler Brings Magnolia Boulevard Home As They Celebrate The 25th Anniversary Of Their Album ‘Four’
Here at Capture Kentucky, the goal is always to help shine a positive light on Kentucky and her people. The greatest asset we have in our Commonwealth is by far and away, our people.
Seeing people chasing their dreams and ultimately catching them is likely my favorite hobby. That’s why this Blues Traveler show was so important to me.
Allow me to explain. We focus heavily on music here at Capture Kentucky and I feel we’re living in history right now. So many Kentuckians have found musical success and the list continues to grow on an almost daily occurrence. Names like Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, White Reaper, Bryson Tiller, Tyler Booth and many more have outgrown the boundaries of our Commonwealth.
This show adds yet another name to that growing list. Opening the show was none other than Lexington’s Magnolia Boulevard. This tour is the launching pad for what I feel is a long and meaningful career for the band. Blues Traveler released ‘four’ twenty-five years ago and they put together this three-week tour to play the album in its entirety for the fans. Magnolia Boulevard were chosen as direct support for the entire celebratory tour.
I have believed in Magnolia Boulevard since the very first note I ever heard. I’ve championed them at every possible opportunity and there was absolutely no way that I would miss this entire tour. It’s history in the making and I promise I will give you my all with this article. So let’s get started!
First off, if you’ve never been to Headliners in Louisville, it is a very quaint venue. The capacity is 700, so when a show is sold-out, ya better love your neighbors. Because you’re going to get to know ’em. Friday night was indeed sold-out, so it was a battle as a photographer to find angles. Especially since there was no photo pit.
Up first were my buds in Magnolia Boulevard. The members of Magnolia Boulevard are some of my favorite people and it was an absolute honor to be able to document the night. There were many familiar faces, but my focus was on everyone else. At my core, I’m a people watcher. It’s through observation that I am able to write the way I do. Faces in the crowd either validate or contradict what I’m feeling and that helps me shape my story.
Needless to say, the crowd was captivated. Magnolia Boulevard belongs on that stage and I feel this tour is launching their careers.
As the band hit the stage, the crowd was still filing in. What they witnessed, was the best performance I have witnessed from Magnolia Boulevard. Maybe it was the familiar faces. Maybe it was the fact that they’ve played several shows consecutively so far on this tour, whatever it was, Magnolia Boulevard better hold onto it. Two words would have sufficed here, but I figured you’d like a little more than just “Holy Sh!t!”
The band began with one of their newest songs in “Planting Seeds” and the set included “Strong-Willed Women”, “Smooth Sailing”, “Sister”, “Ride” and more. It was a great set to introduce folks to the band.
So, I want to take a moment to talk about a few specific songs. First, was “Strong-Willed Women.” For me, Maggie Noëlle’s voice shines like a diamond throughout this song and judging by those front-row faces, they’d likely agree with me.
Next, let’s talk about “Sister”, by the time the set got to this point, folks knew what to expect when Gregg was ready to play a solo. Maggie picked up on that too and as she finished her chorus, she stepped back, grinning like the Cheshire Cat and it was an absolutely beautiful moment.
With “Sister” being officially released a week earlier, I spotted several of those familiar faces singing along with Maggie as well. That certainly filled my heart.
We HAVE to talk about “Smooth Sailing.” There is absolutely no way that we can’t. In private conversations, I’ve told Gregg Erwin that his best playing occurs when he is “Mad Gregg.” When he let’s go of his whole being and lets the music take him over, it’s incredible. He plays harder, he holds notes longer, he squats down, he leans back, the music flows out of him and it is infectious.
The crowd enjoyed the show up until that moment. After that moment, they fell in love. You could physically feel the room get smaller as people pushed forward. Words can not adequately describe what that energy felt like.
For their last song, Magnolia Boulevard brought up fellow Kentuckian and PRS Guitar brother Boscoe France. Boscoe played the slide guitar and eventually stood toe-to-toe with Gregg as they traded guitar licks and harmonized beautifully. The roof may not have blown off, but I’d lay money down that Headliners has a few new cracks in its structure.
The time had arrived for us to experience the mighty Blues Traveler. They were in town celebrating the 25th anniversary of their release ‘Four’ which won them critical acclaim and even a Grammy. I was an impressionable young man back then and I remember jamming to ‘Four’ for a very long time, so I too was eager to see Blues Traveler hit the stage. Their set was lengthy and impressive. Playing ‘four’ in its entirety and sprinkling in a few fan favorites.
The most fun moment was during their performance of “Brother John.” The entire band harmonized with John Popper while encouraging the crowd to raise their hands and clap along. That’s the performance that I’ll store in my memory banks because of the energy in the room. It was absolutely electric!!
As Blues Traveler got deeper into their set, they performed “The Mountains Win Again.” I found myself in awe, as I had forgotten just how beautiful the song structure was. I stood there watching the band and at that moment, nothing else mattered. I suppose that’s why we enjoy music so much though. It’s an escape. It’s a time machine. It’s therapy and when it’s great, nothing else can compare.
Obviously “Run-Around” was a massive sing-a-long, and it was an absolute delight to see the band play. John Popper is considered by many, myself included, to be one of the greatest harmonica players on the planet. One look no further than the now iconic sounds of “Run-Around” to grasp that concept.
For me though, their performance of their hit “Hook” was the most beautiful. Much like “The Mountains Win Again”, I had forgotten just how good the song structure was. I’m surprised that my stare didn’t burn a hole into the bass of Tad Kinchla. I followed his fretwork intensely as he was all over the neck of that bass. A fantastic performance by a legendary band.
Then came the moment that I’d hoped would happen. Blues Traveler invited Maggie, Gregg and Ryan to join them for the encore. Together they played the Allman Brothers Band classic, “One Way Out.” I’ve somewhat joked that if reincarnation turns out to be real that Gregg Erwin has to be Duane Allman. So what better way to end the night? The answer is there is no better way to end the night.
It was a great night of music and I look forward to the 50th-anniversary tour of ‘four.’ It has to happen, right? I mean Blues Traveler said it best, “The Hook Brings You Back.”
See y’all at a show soon. Thanks for stopping by!!