Living legends graced the Marcus Amphitheater stage during this year's edition of Summerfest, including Bon Jovi, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, KISS, and Stevie Wonder. Although they all provided stellar showings for the fans at the worlds' largest music festival, the venue seemed ready for some young talent to breathe life into its speakers.
The Fray, a recent ascendant to stardom that arrived on the music scene in 2005, was able to provide the requisite youthful energy. With Jack's Mannequin, a Summerfest regular for five years running, opening and prepping the crowd, The Fray electrified and kept the crowd riveted throughout its entire show.
Although the nearly-packed Amphitheater seemed ready to burst with excitement before the first note was played, once The Fray stepped on stage and launched into its mega-hit "Over My Head (Cable Car)" the crowd locked in their focus and stayed enthusiastic until the show-closing "Happiness."
The Fray delivered a fantastic show that included songs from their new album, including "Never Say Never," "Enough For Now," and the newest hit, "You Found Me." Of course, they also played their worldwide hit "How to Save a Life," from their first album with the same title.
The Fray is not a raging rock band and their shows are also not meant to be head-banging, devil-horn festivals. The music has a much deeper meaning and a softer sound than many rock bands today. The band wants people to understand the stories and lessons in each song, and the crowd at the Marcus seemed to listen, fully enraptured throughout the set list. Loud cheers erupted for the three hits and each of them were performed fantastically.
The only part of the show that was slightly odd was when a "ghost" wandered the stage during the playing of "How to Save a Life." Apparently, the short act before Jack's Mannequin, which played a short set before much of the audience arrived, had a lead singer whose grandmother had passed away that morning, and the ghost was a tribute to her. Although it was a very nice gesture, it seemed out of place and should not have been included during the playing of one of the bands' biggest hits.
The encore included "All At Once," "Heaven Forbid," (which is a solo by lead guitarist Joe King), and the band's cover of Kanye West's "Heartless." The cover of the hip-hop song "Heartless" was performed very well and is part of a growing and interesting trend in the music industry. Songs and styles of music are transcending just music label as rock bands take on covers of hip-hop music and as bands and hip-hop artists collaborate to create albums such as Linkin Park and Jay-Z's 2004 "Collision Course."
The entire show, I felt connected with the band as they played each mini-story. Each song seemed very heartfelt was performed with a passion for the music. Most of the stories are uplifting tales of triumph and in the middle of the encore the lead singer, Isaac Slade, gave a brief shout out to our nation and the troubles that we are working through with the message that we will succeed together.
The Fray played an amazing, heartfelt performance and were a great addition to Summerfest. I can't wait to have them return.