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The Fray is irresistible at the Paramount
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The Fray is irresistible at the Paramount

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

The Fray
August 6
Paramount Theatre


Despite what you've heard, pop music is alive and kicking. It may not receive the critical glory that its indie counterpart gets, but when executed with high marks, it's just as difficult to ignore. The Fray is one artist helping to keep the genre afloat, producing a worthy resume of mid-tempo ballads and piano-fueled love songs that might come across as lightweight to some, but the filled room of fans last week at the Paramount - who paid upwards of $50 to see them in concert - would undoubtedly disagree.

The Denver-based unit opened their show, a penultimate performance of their spring-summer outing, with "Over My Head (Cable Car)," a Grammy-nominated track from the group's 2005 debut. Lead singer Isaac Slade immediately commanded the stage with his soft growl and sexy appearance - squeezed into a tight ensemble of black skinny denims and white V-neck shirt, this shaved-headed frontman made it hard to pay attention to anything else happening on stage.

"Good evening to you, Seattle!", shouted Slade to a packed main floor and two sold-out balconies. Near the end of the show, he would reveal to the audience that his wedding night two years ago took place here in Seattle, on Capitol Hill.

Illuminated by a stage featuring two sets of semi-circular lighted panels in an array of colors and a rectangular overhead screen with live shots of the band, The Fray played selections from both of their albums, the most recent being this year's self-titled work. "Syndicate" was marvelous, backed by a paneling of green bulbs and strobes, while the mega single "How to Save a Life" was done amidst a wall of large tealight-shaped fixtures that dimmed as the song came to a close.

"Trust Me," "Say When," and an incredible rendition of "Enough for Now" each made appearances on the set list. At times, guitarist Dave Welsh sneaked in and took charge of lead vocals. Considering that The Fray is known for its quiet side with a string of adult contemporary hits, they certainly put out a lot of great sound with spontaneous morsels of hard rock. It should be mentioned that a couple of touring musicians were included in the lineup.

On "Never Say Never," Slade invited concertgoers to join in the chorus and within seconds the entire theater was singing at top volume to the current radio favorite. Another biggie, "You Found Me," wonderfully finished the four-piece's main set.

"Do you guys want a normal song or a special song?" asked Slade when The Fray was called back to the stage for an encore by a thunderously loud crowd. With that, the quartet lunged into the best five minutes of the performance, a gorgeous and delicate version of Kanye West's "Heartless" that climaxed with Ben Wysocki's gentle tapping on drums - seriously, it blew me far, far away.

"Seattle, we've been here two times, and this was the best time!" yelled an exuberant Slade. He continued by saying that some of his best friends and family lived in the Emerald City.

"Can you guys singer louder than Portland?" questioned Slade during "All At Once," and the audience filled the room again with eager-to-please voices. The show came to a finale with a tender, acoustic rendition of "Happiness," from the new album, as streaks of colorful lights zipped vertically in the background.

I'm not sure exactly what I expected from my first live experience of The Fray, but I guessed it would fall somewhere between mellow and delightful - and while it was a little of both, it was also quite moving and layered with brilliant elements of pop. Around me, couples swayed and kissed - these were the songs that maybe brought them together, or ones they go home to and snuggle up with, or ones that will be played at memorable occasions in their near future.

Regardless of whether The Fray's music is considered cool by critics' standards, the group's fans have already made them international stars and top-selling artists. To perform in front of a full venue that knows your music by heart is simply icing on a very delicious cake.

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