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Blues Traveler/Spearhead, Red Rocks, Morrison, CO- 10/2

Blues Traveler and Colorado have long shared a wholehearted love affair. Colorado became infatuated with the New York City-based band well before most others, and it's no secret Blues Traveler fell hard for the Rocky Mountain state particularly its proudest venue, Red Rocks early on. In fact, at this point it's long overdue that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper deem the Fourth of July "Blues Traveler Day" the band has played Red Rocks every Independence Day, save 1993, for more than a decade now.

Over that time, Blues Traveler has developed a very close, mutually nurturing relationship with the city. And that shared respect and concern brought the foursome back to Red Rocks for another show this year, the closing concert of the season. This evening was an effort to benefit the Colorado Rescue Mission, a Denver-based organization working to fight homelessness. It's a noble cause, of course, but lagging ticket sales that filled only about half the legendary amphitheatre suggested extending the outdoor concert season into October might be a bit ambitious.

Nonetheless, those present offered enough energy to make the atmosphere as electric as a sellout. The opening act, activist-musician Michael Franti and Spearhead, set a festive, communal and politically-overt mood right off the bat with "Yens and Euros," "Bomb the World" and "Never Seen a Place So High." Before the latter, Franti recounted a recent trip to the Middle East, about which he wrote the song, and lamented about the broad negative strokes that the war in Iraq has caused worldwide.

Though encouraging voter registration and other political involvement remained a theme throughout, Blues Traveler's set was focused less on posturing and more on celebration. The band satisfied with compelling readings of hits like "Run Around" and "Hook," as well as the venue-appropriate "Mountains Win Again." But the highlight came early on with a fiery "Gina" that was split into halves when mid-song Popper launched into an impassioned "Imagine," which the band covered on the 1995 John Lennon tribute album Working Class Hero. The song's message eloquently summed up the tone of the evening.

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