Concert Reviews

The Fray Plays Intimate Show, Almost for Friends, at the Fox Theatre

Since signing a record deal in December 2004, Denver-based band the Fray has found a healthy amount of success – so much so that picking a venue like the Fox Theatre, which holds no more than 500 people, for a concert a day before its big show at the 1STBANK Center on Saturday, November 26, might seem a little odd.

But the pick was very intentional.

Not only was it the band’s first local performance since the release of its first greatest-hits compilation, Through the Years, in early November, but lead singer Isaac Slade told the audience that when his parents were in college in the ‘70s, they lived in an apartment a few blocks from the theater, and he was born less than two miles away. It’s also where the band signed its first major-label record deal.

The Fox’s size made the band sound less like a mega-hitmaker and more like an up-and-coming promising pop band. At times, it even felt like the group was performing for friends.

Whether you like the Fray’s particular brand of pop rock or not, there’s no doubt it can make songs accessible to a radio-listening audience while still conveying emotional sincerity. Nowhere was that more apparent than during the performance of “How to Save a Life,” one of the Fray’s more popular songs. Slade and guitarist Joe King were able to dig deep into the emotion behind the song and almost relive the moment they first performed it all those years ago. Seeing the Fray in a smaller venue, one could better appreciate the band that has, more so than most acts from Colorado, connected with people around the world – and for a reason that seems to have eluded some of its critics: Its pop songs are actually high-quality.

At the end of the encore, the Fray performed “Over My Head (Cable Car).” Slade walked into the crowd as everyone around him sang along. A calculated move? Maybe. But it made for great rock theater and served as a good reminder of why this local band made it big.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.