Travis Meadows is a truly magnetic individual. Going into his show on a unseasonably warm January night at Kansas City’s honky tonk mecca, Knucklehead’s Saloon, everyone knew this. What might have come as a bit of a surprise is how entrancing he is as a person and a storyteller. Sure, he was armed with one of four guitars he had on stage throughout the night but he spent as much time playing them as he did telling honest and revealing stories that were every bit as valuable as the show.
The background on Travis Meadows reads like a dramatic book, from watching his brother drown as a kid to the cancer that took part of his leg before he hit 20 there is a lot there. His multiple stints in rehab (the last one remaining successful for several years now) are the largest part of the story. Drawing from his often dark past he was able to spin it with humor throughout his two hours on stage on the Knucklehead’s stage on a weekday night. The crowd of about 60-70 people soaked up every word, they laughed, they cried and obviously they enjoyed some songs too.
Meadows led off with a solo electric version of “Travelin’ Bone” off his latest and greatest album “First Cigarette” before moving into a very personal song with “Minefield.” He toggled all evening between selections from his catalog while never losing the attention of one set of ears in the crowd. He played some songs that far more successful artists have recorded like “Riser” and “What We Ain’t Got” but maintained his own personal stake on the tracks. The fact that Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen covered these songs didn’t bare much on the performances this evening because on this night they belonged to the short, left handed songwriter on stage and to him only.
Meadows wove his songs with stories about the songs and beyond, with the comedic timing of Todd Snider and the songwriting skill of Bruce Springsteen and well… Todd Snider, he navigated an enthralling two hours of music and stories. Some of the best songs on this night were the beautifully done call-and-answer performance of “Underdogs” where the audience handled the refrain while an extremely grateful Meadows strummed on his acoustic guitar and handled the lyrics. He told a captivating story of being a teenager listening to Bruce Springsteen while cruising the strip of his hometown before pounding out a great take on “Pray For Jungleland.” His take on songs like “Sideways” and “Let It Go” were powerful and moving delivered to an appreciative crowd. All his performances were solo on this night while his loyal sideman Whiskey Jack was away on a cruise. Normally Whiskey Jack would be his accomplice but for these shows Meadows had to fill the songs in himself. On a couple tracks like the uncharacteristically upbeat “Guy Like Me” he would accompany himself with a harmonica.
After leaving the stage for a few seconds the crowd applause forced him back to the mic, he would respond with a modest “Well thank you, that never happens.” The encore was deserving, he put on a great show, he would also add to that with a three song encore that would include the crowd favorite “Unfinished Business” and the dark humor of “Davidson County Police.” When he walked off the stage for the second time is was safe to assume that the crowd was endlessly pleased with what they got. A rare tour performance by a truly great songwriter willing to bare his heart, everyone can only hope he finds a way to make it back to Kansas City again.
Travis Meadows live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 1/25/18 setlist:
- Travelin’ Bone
- Let it Go
- Grown Up Clothes
- Better Boat
- Pray For Jungleland
- Guy Like Me
- encore break
- What We Ain’t Got
- Unfinished Business
- Davidson County Police