The Fray – May 11th – Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Photos by Ty Hyten

The Scene: Who’s got two thumbs and stood out in the cold to see one of the most commercialized bands I have ever seen? This guy! If you have ever turned on a TV, you have probably heard a song by The Fray, and the crowd was made up of people who most likely spend more time watching commercials than listening to tunes. Mainstream America has much different musical tastes than I do, and maybe it’s because I spend about four hours a month in front of a TV, as compared to national averages that range from 4-6 hours per day. I also don’t listen to radio stations that are saturated with corporate programming choices. I have never relied on mass media to tell me what to listen to, nor developed a love for a band because of strategic song placement in a show or commercial, but I’m not passing judgement on anyone who has, and it was good to see Red Rocks so full on such a cold and dreary night.

While most of the audience was blown away by the alternative boy band on the stage, I was more impressed by the performance Mother Nature was giving. While there is never a time when Red Rocks is anything less than majestic, as fog rolled over the rocks and dropped on to the crowd like a dancing ghost I was amazed. The lights on the stage. and shining onto the rock monoliths, pierced through the mist and joined the dance, and my head was on a swivel for this natural display of beauty.  Don’t get me wrong, I was actively listening to the music, I just felt more connected to the fog than The Fray.

The Fray: Now, you may be wondering why I was standing out in the cold to see a band that I wasn’t necessarily into. My thought was that if Colorado loved The Fray so much, I should give them a chance, and I thought Red Rocks would be the perfect place to do it. I thought that there was a chance that the live performance would take their overplayed music to another level and that I would see this band in a whole new light. Opening up with “The Fighter,” a song off of their new release Scars and Stories, The Fray blew the crowd away right from the start. I had never heard the song before, but it sounded just like everything else…like it was made for TV. There must be some kind of mathematical formula to determine which songs would be right for television placement, and I think The Fray must use that formula for every song.

“You Found Me” created some serious energy in the crowd, and frontman / Piano man Issac Slade definitely poured his soul into this one. I have to admit, it is a well written song, and it obviously touches a lot of people. Heads went back as hands went in the air making the crowd look more like a congregation of devout followers than a rock n roll audience. Did hearing this song live do anything to help me become drawn to The Fray? Nope. There was no new perspective given to it, no benefit to hearing the song live versus recorded. It was an exact replica of the studio version. “How to Save a Life” had the same cookie cutter feel yet intense reaction from the crowd. I guess The Fray is popular for the same reasons Applebee’s is popular; consistency, brand loyalty and continually keeping their product on the television screen. I wish I could say they gained recognition based on originality and ingenuity, but this sound is nothing new, and it wasn’t back in ‘04 either. It just sounds like something that has been done before. If you told me Chuck Morris hand-picked these musicians to form a scarf wielding boy band from Denver, and that the band was created in order to break the record for “most licensed songs,” I wouldn’t be surprised.

The Fray played other hits like “Over My Head,” and more material off the new album, but it all kind of blended together for me. Each song sounded like the last, and each one blew the crowd away. Now, The Fray may not be the most groundbreaking or unique bands out there, but they sure are rehearsed. I think the band mates must coach each other on the proper multiplatinum stance. “No, put your right foot forward about 3/4‘s of an inch. Now bend your left knee more. Hey, what color scarf are you wearing tonight?”  Or maybe there is tape on the stage that tells them the proper foot spacing. However they do it, they have got it down!

The set ended with “Heartbeat,” and I stood there with cold feet. The crowd was screaming for an encore, and I was left needing more. Yes, these guys put on a tight show, but that’s just it…it’s too tight. The musicians went through the paces, and acted the part, but I didn’t really see anything that stood out. I guess if your music choices are based on television soundtracks and commercials, this was an amazing show. You got to stand out in the cold and hear “Over My Head” for the 25,000th time played exactly like it was on the record, and you have the pictures on your phone to prove it. For me, it was exactly what I hoped it wouldn’t be: predictable.

Energy: B+
Sound: A
Musicianship: B+
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light show: A-

Overall: B+


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Who Is Brian Turk

Brian Turk grew up in the shadow of the Catskill Mountains, near Woodstock, NY. He comes from a family of music lovers, audiopliles, Dead Heads and avid concert goers.The musical magic that can only be created in the Catsklills, both past and present, is what Brian cosiders the epicenter of his music addiction. The music of The Band, and most recently The Levon Helm Band, is the soundtrack of home for him. Brian's mother took him to his first concert at 5years old...it was Johnny Cash and Roseanne Cash at Jones Beach Amphitheatre. For Brian, music is a family affair. He feels the same way about live music...we all convene to celebrate together. Brian's writing life started when he wrote his favorite author, southern fiction writer Clyde Edgerton, a fan letter at age 13. When most kids were idolizing baseball players and television, he was worshipping writers and musicians. The two became friends and Clyde shared his craft with Brian. The next year Brian attended Duke University's Young Writers Camp. This is the extent, of what Brian considers, his “formal” training in writing. From then on his goal was to capture snapshots of life through words. Brian has been involved with live music in various facets over the years, and combined with his enthusiasm and love for Denver's music scene, he creates a vivid description of what he sees and hears. If you see him out at a show, dancing with a notebook in hand, say hello.