Some live shows are filled with a type of musical electricity that radiates through every fan, causing chaotic physical reactions until everyone is dripping sweat.
The Fray's show sold out weeks before the Denver quartet's arrival, and some fans clung to hope and begged for tickets on a windy winter evening outside the downtown venue.
Inside, the place was packed—adolescents stood shoulder-to-shoulder with 40-somethings, and couples in their 20s and 30s held each other close while mouthing the words to Fray faves like “Never Say Never” off the band’s 2009 self-titled album.
The evening opened with Scars on 45, a lovable quintet from Leeds, England. The group was a solid choice for a Fray opener—the co-ed vocals of Aimee Driver and Danny Bemrose combined with the sounds of a bass, keyboard, drums, guitar and occasional tambourine to create sweet, yet infectious sound.
The lyrics were surprisingly melancholy and honest, like on “Hearts on Fire” when Driver crooned, “I wish you’d never show me now / It seemed too easy to turn you down / And so it seems you are my tears / Is your heart on fire?” But the group’s sound was far from a downer; sad lyrics aside, Scars on 45 is mostly upbeat. Following a cover of pop goddess Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” the group left the crowd relaxed and ready for the show’s headliner.
Following a fantastically quick set change and the wheeling of a black Yamaha piano on stage, The Fray made its grand entrance amidst a sea of iPhones.
I was wary to see a band that has garnered the amount of radio play that The Fray has: What if the group didn’t sound the same live? But after a few songs from the group’s newest release, Scars and Stories, which dropped Feb. 7, and an energetic performance of the mega-hit “You Found Me,” the verdict was in.
Isaac Slade’s vocals were just as powerful live as they are coming from a car radio. The band had a soft-yet-powerful vibe that it maintained on stage as members played a slew of hits with exceptional clarity. It was evident that the quartet’s talent doesn’t come from clever industry pros and studio tricks.
As lights changed color overhead, the group played with nary a rest. Slade rotated between a stand-up mic at the edge of the stage and a seat at the black piano, belting out lyrics with the type of eyes-closed, nearly-mic-swallowing voracity that makes live shows so exciting.
During one of the few breaks, Slade gave his thoughts on the City of Trees.
“I got to walk around today,” Slade said. “This place feels a lot like Denver. You’ve got the mountains over there … Have we played here before?”
The remark was followed by cheers from the crowd and a stripped-down, yet beautiful version of “How to Save a Life,” which was inspired by Slade’s experience mentoring a crack-addicted teen. The song brought the group a plethora of new followers after it was included on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
The group finished its set with “Heartbeat,” the first single from its new album. Following incessant applause, the group returned to the stage for a three-song encore, including a cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps,” before exiting the stage and leaving the crowd with a solid performance to reflect on.