red lights


Catchy, comforting and more
than Coldplay clones

The Fray
Chicago, IL
Mar. 1, 2006
The Fray The Fray The Fray

Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis

In an age when melodic British bred (or at least inspired) bands like Keane, Elbow and the Doves are trying to catch fire like Coldplay, it's only a natural a new act would want to jump on the same bandwagon. Although The Fray hails from Denver and has actually been building up its fan base since 2002, the group's been getting lumped into that exact same category since signing with Epic, if only for its piano-pop centering. While there's certainly nuances that exist on last fall's release How To Save A Life and subsequent concert tour, the fivesome carved out some of their own atmospheric textures, dueling lead vocal tradeoffs and sublime simplicity that makes members seem much more like the relatable average Joe than the stadium bound Chris Martin and company.

The Fray And having that down home attitude with delightfully catchy art pop is exactly what packed out the house with a fan base that's grown exponentially since "Over My Head (Cable Car)" hit airwaves. In fact, earning some mainstream recognition and tour dates with Weezer has ushered in a whole array of youthful fans, most of whom were probably visiting the big city from somewhere in the suburbs, clad in their khaki pants and Gap jackets. Those elements (coupled with the fact that the Metro is now a non-smoking venue) took some getting used to, but stripping aside those variables, The Fray still delivered a mostly moving, pleasant and peaceful 50 minute set with lushly layered arrangements.

The title track from the new disc opened the evening to a series of squeals, shrieks and sparse singing as Isaac Slade slid behind the piano while trading off vocals with guitarist Joe King. It was an interplay that would continue most of the night, and though Slade perhaps got more time in front of the mic when all was said and done, the chemistry was comforting and calming. "Heaven Forbid" took on a more acoustic dimension, almost exclusively highlighting the slightly deeper pipes of King, who tenderly strummed his way through the breezy ballad. "She Is" seemed to also have an entrancing effect on those gathered, though all became especially consumed by "Over My Head" simply because of its familiarity.

Despite all signs pointing to The Fray's positive rise, the gang does have some challenges ahead if planning to achieve greater longevity. The group was guilty at times of coming across somewhat generically within pop/rock pretenses with the material sounding the same after awhile. Even beyond that hurdle, the audience of mostly teens and twenty-somethings can be very fast to fall in love with the latest buzz band only to forget about them a few months down the road. Hopefully The Fray will be able to keep up its already obvious momentum on the road, though the true test will be a sophomore CD, which will hopefully take all the constructive building blocks of the first and raise up the apparent quality up with one more challenging notch.

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