John Popper at Blue Note Hawaii

Kristopher Weiss on January 8, 2018

Kicking off his six-shows-in-three-days run the at Blue Note Hawaii on Jan. 4, John Popper noted he and Ben Wilson were also playing their first concert of 2018, and discovering they’re actually 2017 guys.

”This microphone seems so futuristic,” he joked to the enthusiastic fans.

Popper, on harmonica and vocals, and his Blues Traveler bandmate Wilson on piano, ran through eight songs during his early set, leaving time for the gregarious Popper to meet fans and sign copies of his book, Suck and Blow: And Other Stories I’m Not Supposed to Tell. The performances were top-notch as at 50, Popper remains a peerless harp player and retains a strong singing voice.

”I should play a song people know,” he said in introducing the encore, a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which featured a lengthy harmonica solo that ended with Popper tossing the instrument to a fan at a table up front.

The show featured an abbreviated version of Popper’s standard “The Hits, The Stories, The Experience” tour setlist. While the hits were limited to “Hook” and “Run-Around,” the stories were abundant and funny.

Popper, picking various harps from two attaché cases and alternating sips of water with sips of stronger stuff, said his 2-year-old daughter might add percussion by shouting out “da-da” occasionally.

He talked about the first time the band heard themselves on the radio only to discover the track had been co-opted for an advertisement. And Popper spoke of needing to watch TV on his bed in his underwear in order to digest food; of remembering late Blues Traveler bassist Bobby Sheehan; and of rekindling a relationship with his oldest friend, Steve, the subject of “Regarding Steven,” which appeared in a pretty and sparse rendition.

Popper plumbed his band’s songbook on tracks such as “100 Years,” “Look Around” and “But Anyway” and previewed their forthcoming LP with “Ode from the Aspect,” written after ingesting ’shrooms he got from a a fan on Jam Cruise and “climbing back to my room” after realizing he was gonna be stuck there for five days.

Blues Traveler turned 30 in 2017, a fact that amazed Popper – “we’re old,” said. He’s also amazed the band is still cranking out solid material.

”We were prepared to make a crappy album, but it turned out really good,” he enthused about the as-yet-untitled LP.