The Fray plays hometown crowd at Red Rocks |

The Fray plays hometown crowd at Red Rocks

Amiee White Beazley
Special to The Aspen Times
Denver-based The Fray, Ben Wysocki, Isaac Slade, Dave Welsh and Joe King. (Sony BMG Music Entertainment)

Here’s the thing about The Fray: they’re going to a great band someday. Like their other Colorado fans, I believe in this pop-rock foursome. With some new songs and more edge, one day they are going to live up to the hype they’ve generated as one of the best things to happen to the Colorado music scene in recent years, but it hasn’t happened just yet.

The 20-something rockers from Denver, with two big hit singles to their credit (“Over My Head [Cable Car]” and the unofficial theme song to ABC’s television show “Gray’s Anatomy,” “How To Save A Life”), performed their first headlining show at Red Rocks on Saturday, Sept. 30, to a sold-out crowd of mostly college-aged fans. The band’s performance highlighted their charisma, love of performance and strong musicianship, but it also exposed their lack of songwriting range and their need to mature as a headlining band.

The show began with two openers who sounded an awful lot like the headliners, with piano-driven songs that didn’t quite fill the venue with its sound. When the lights dropped and The Fray was due to take the stage, the crowd rose to their feet ready to explode. But instead of capitalizing on that energy, the band played a 10-minute-long video diary of their, yes, extraordinary rise from obscurity to success. By the time the video had concluded, the entire venue had returned to their seats, and The Fray opened to an already deflated crowd.

Unfortunately, the band didn’t gather much momentum from the opening uninspired ballad, moving sluggishly along until the final song of the short show (one hour later), when they closed with the hit, “Over My Head.” The other highlight was the encore, when The Fray performed the buoyant title track of its platinum-selling album “How To Save A Life” ” this week’s No. 3 song on Billboards Hot 100 chart and No. 1 download on iTunes. These two multifaceted songs provided a glimpse of what is to come from this band and their promise in both lyrics and arrangement.

Aspen music fans may remember The Fray from their January appearance at Belly Up. Not many people knew of their music at that point, and the concert didn’t send a ripple through town. But no matter, their rise has been stuff of legend for the budding rock stars. It began with a Colorado State University radio station putting “Over My Head” on the air, and soon The Fray’s sound picked up around The Front Range, then other college campuses around the country. Leave it to the kids, they know a good thing when they hear it, and lucky for The Fray, students have the Internet, downloads and MySpace to spread the word quickly.

The fans’ unwavering dedication to The Fray does not go unnoticed by the band. They are loyal to each other, the people that got them to the top and are eager to give back to the community that, literally, raised them.

Before the Red Rocks show, The Fray held a private gathering of about 100 children from the Denver Public Schools. They took questions from several of them (“What’s it like to be a celebrity?” “Who is the most famous person you’ve met so far?”) and answered them with a goofy humility, making it clear they didn’t take themselves too seriously. They were upbeat and happy ” a contrast to the music that has made them stars. “It all started here, all the help, all the fans could not have done it without you,” said a thankful frontman, Isaac Slade.

When asked about success, Slade noted that “success is different for us. We made a goal to do this and stay friends and to keep our families together.” It was an endearing view for one of the country’s most popular bands, and idealistic, for sure, but also possible with The Fray. With only four years under their belts (they formed in 2002) and such success so early on, The Fray has set the positive tone for their careers.

This private gathering was a part of VH1’s Save the Music program, and in addition to $500,000 worth of musical instruments donated the Denver Public Schools by the organization, The Fray added another $35,000 to the Save the Music Foundation. Products of the Denver Public Schools themselves, The Fray’s connection to the Denver area is rooted in the average suburban experience: played in bands, traveled to the mountains to snowboard and caught concerts at Red Rocks with family. During the show Slade recalled his first show at Red Rocks ” Amy Grant in 1995. His “humble” family had tickets in the last row of the venue, so he was sure to address the back of the crowd, where he once sat.

The Fray’s headlining performance at Red Rocks was more than just a homecoming. For the native Coloradoans, it was a milestone. Guitarist Joe King said, “So far it’s the highlight of our career. For me this is the top. Growing up in Denver and seeing shows at Red Rocks, this is a huge honor. I’m nervous. I’ve been nervous all week for it.” And the emotion of the night did not escape the band while onstage. They offered gratitude, they stood back and took in the sights and sounds of the crowd, and, at one point, the singing audience made Slade fight back tears. It was a special moment for The Fray and the hometown crowd that had brought them to this sold-out venue.

Whether or not The Fray will maintain its popularity remains to be seen. But its mounting fan base is already anticipating the band’s sophomore album, expected around Christmas 2007. Meanwhile, The Fray will be touring throughout the country, continuing the spread the sound to the 18-to-28-year-old crowd. And if they take a lesson from one of their influences ” Radiohead ” and throw caution to the wind, get innovative and take risks with their budding sound, the next Fray show at Red Rocks is going to be a truly special event.

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