Blues Traveler’s John Popper holds no punches at Tennessee Theatre

Legendary Blues-Rock group tours in support of new album

Blues Traveler • photo by Michael Weintrob

Blues Traveler lead singer and harmonica virtuoso John Popper has always had disdain for the commercial side of the music business.

That was evident nearly three decades ago when he said that he couldn’t sell as many albums as former Wham! frontman George Michael because he didn’t a perfectly proportional behind.

Well, Popper’s hatred for the business proved to still exist at a recent Knoxville concert at the Historic Tennessee Theatre.

The band gave the near-capacity and vibrant crowd nearly two hours of exceptional blues-rock. Many of the tunes lasted several minutes and featured the individual talents of Popper, keyboardist Ben Wilson, guitarist Chan Kinchla, bassist Tad Kinchla and drummer Brendan Hill.

Each member was featured in multiple solos throughout the night as the band was on tour to promote a new album, Hurry Up and Hang Around.

Apparently Blues Traveler loves to both tour and work in the studio. What Popper hates is promoting albums. He did, however, bless the crowd with tunes from the new release, including “Accelerated Nation” and the piano-backed ballad, “Owed From the Aspect.”

Those songs stood well beside standards “Run Around” and “Hook” but Popper said he felt like “a whore” for promoting the album on this tour.

What Popper and his bandmates believe in is their music. They’re grateful to their fans and they took time to pay tribute to the late Tom Petty and Malcolm Young.

Chan took the lead vocal chores on a rendition of Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance. Blues Traveler also played a version of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” as a tribute to Malcolm Young, AC/DC’s rhythm guitarist, who passed away due to complications from Dementia. Young’s brother, George, who produced several AC/DC albums, also passed away in the last calendar year.

The East Tennessee show, which was Sunday, October 21, definitely featured Blues Traveler at its best. The band was taut. The jams were flawless as the band truly connected with its audience at the intimate venue.

Last time Blues Traveler made a stop in Knoxville, Popper and the gang played the Bijou. That show was good but this one was noticeably better. As the band jammed, Popper revisited vulgarly thumbing his nose at record company brass.

That, too, struck a positive chord with the crowd, which ranged from college-aged kids, 30-somethings and old folks like me (and even a few senior citizens). The two-hour performance showed that Blues Traveler’s unique brand of blues rock is undeniably classic. Popper embodies the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll and remains one of music’s true rebels.

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