In spite of the chilly June evening at the Molson Amphitheatre Fray fans were thoroughly warmed before the band even hit the stage. The show opened with Virginia rockers Mae and pop-rockers OK GO. The latter band's high energy tunes got the crowd bobbing their heads and waving their hands in anticipation for the headliners.
The Fray immediately drew the crowd in, opening their show with the tune "All At Once" that included a built in audience sing-along, "and all at once the crowd began to sing, sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same".
Outfitted with the usual rock band instrumentation (drums, guitar, bass) with the addition of a grand piano centre stage, the Fray's stage also came equipped with an impressive wall of background lights and lanterns floating a few feet above the band's heads. Lead singer Isaac Slade ploughed through the entirety of their debut album How to Save A Life playing tunes like "Dead Wrong", "Fall Away" and "Hundred" that featured Slade solo on the piano with the warm light of the lanterns warming his face. The most enthusiastic fan reaction came from the album's title track. The tune's appearances on prime time TV shows Grey's Anatomy and Scrubs, probably explains why every member of the audience knew the entire song word-for-word and sung it back to the band with gusto.
Occasionally passing off lead vocals to guitarist Joe King, Slade and co. peppered their performance with tunes from their upcoming album, that they assured fans would be released next year. New songs included the high energy "Absolute", the ironically melancholy "Happiness" and "Dixie" a country-tinged tribute to their hometown of Denver, Colorado. Perhaps because it's been two years since the band has released any new material or maybe because the songs have already racked up quite a few plays on my iPod but the new tunes offered some much welcome sonic relief from their current material.
Continuing to sway from tunes from their album, the band surprised the audience with their light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek cover of Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" featuring Slade and King splitting Shakira's vocals (Slade even did a bit of hip shaking) while drummer Ben Wysocki made his Toronto vocal debut with his deadpan delivery of the part's sung by former Fugee, Wyclef Jean.
The show was rounded out with the almost-epic "Little House" before the band returned for an encore with their first single "Over My Head (Cable Car)", calling their crew and some of the crowd on stage to help them sing. The band continued the encore performance with the song "Together", an early tune featured on their 2003 indie EP Reason before rounding out the concert with a poignant all-the-way-epic rendition of "Look After You" that incorporated a chorus of Oasis' "Wonderwall".
Though good things were sprinkled throughout the show, good playing, singing and songwriting, good energy, good sense of humor, nothing stuck out enough to truly make the show great. But the small morsels of the new record we were able to glimpse throughout the show, showed glimmers of why Fray fans would definitely be back the next time around.
Writer: Michelle Garcia