Show Review: The Fray with Scars on 45 at The Fox Theater, 2/20/2012

by Stacy Scales on February 22, 2012

The Fray's Ben (drums) and Isaac (atop the piano, singing his ass off)

The Fox Theater. Scars on 45. The Fray, live. A crowd that actually applauds with their hands more than with their voices. These are things that, until Monday night, I’d never before experienced. And all were, as it turned out, the beginning of a wonderful cure for a stereotypical “case of the Mondays.” Though I’ve been listening to The Fray for several years, this was my first chance to catch a show, and until last week, I’d never even heard of English opening band Scars on 45. They did, however, come highly recommended by a friend, and so I couldn’t wait for the show to start. Lucky for me, the lights went down promptly at 8:01 pm.

Scars on 45’s set began with “Tomorrow Won’t Die Too Soon,” and I was immediately surprised to discover a woman in the band. The little bit of research I’d been able to do before the show had all led me to believe that they were fronted by a man (which they also are), so a male-female duo was even more interesting than I expected. After “Beauty’s Running Wild” caught my ear, (the line “beauty’s running wild on your face” is pretty awesome…imagine being the one to inspire that lyric!) one band member remarked that they were excited to be opening for The Fray, and another said that the crowd was the loudest they’d heard thus far (on this tour, anyway). The next song was called “Promises and Empty Words,” and was followed by a quick introduction of band members, and one of the band’s best-known tunes, the lovely “Heart on Fire,” from their current EP of the same name. After “Don’t Say,” Aimee stopped to take a photo of the “biggest, best crowd” they’ve played for yet. Someone chided her, “don’t tell them that. We do this all the time!” She laughed, saying that their “mums” don’t count.

Next they played “Give Me Something,” and then Aimee admitted that she knew what it was like to wait through a support act to see your favorite band, and thanked the crowd for our attention, saying to come say hello and have a drink at the merch table after the set. They finished with “Loudest Alarm,” but surprisingly did a mini-encore: a cover of Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” I have to say, I definitely enjoyed this opener. Music aside, the band’s banter onstage is a delight to behold: how Aimee manages to hold her own amidst the five male members of the group is impressive, and they have such a funny, familial wit among them. Anyway, their sound was round (with two guitars, a bass, drums, two vocalists, and the occasional tambourine), warm, and enjoyable, and I’ll be curious to see where the road takes them in the future.

Scars on 45's singer Aimee

Before long it was time for The Fray, and they took to the stage in dramatic fashion: a nearly black stage illuminated only by green lights as the fanfare grew louder and louder. The first song they played was “Munich” from new album Scars & Stories. Like I said earlier, I’ve been listening to The Fray for years, but since this was my first time seeing them live, I was immediately blown away by Isaac Slade’s stage presence. He’s really unassuming and sort of welcoming, if that makes sense. I kept thinking that aside from the fact that he’s bald (and that I know otherwise), he could have easily passed for around seventeen. And then there’s that voice of his…it sounds exactly the same live as it does on record. It’s perfect. The guy sings his ass off. By the time they started song #2 (“Turn Me On”), I was excited to settle into a great night of live music. During that song, Isaac sat on the edge of the stage with the fans, further proving my point: he’s refreshingly approachable.

Next came “All at Once,” one of my personal favorites from their debut album How to Save a Life, and then back to Scars & Stories for “The Wind,” and then “Happiness,” during which Isaac wandered into the crowd on foot, the crowd singing along all around him. “Here We Are” and “Never Say Never” came next, and then new tune “Be Still” featured a gorgeous, quiet moment with Isaac solo at the piano. After “The Fighter,” I realized one of two reasons why this show felt particularly calm to me: the band had been chatting mostly with each other, briefly, between songs, but not talking much to the crowd. I didn’t mind, though, as they began to play “Rainy Zurich” with guitarist Joe on lead vocals. And just as soon as I’d noticed it, it was no longer true: the band finally addressed the crowd, saying it was their first time playing in Oakland. They recalled a time they played in SF at Slim’s. Apparently, at the time Isaac had said they’d come back some day with a big piano, and Dave would have three amps… and here we are, basically (as they point to one, two, three amps near lead guitarist Dave). Isaac said “you put us here,” and thanked the audience as they began “How to Save a Life.”

When the crowd was asked if anybody “fancied” the drummer, there was a fair amount of applause in response. He waved, and Isaac teased, “you have more fans than any of us. Care to address your people?” Drummer Ben took a moment to bring the house lights up and take a photo of the crowd. It was around this time that I noticed the second reason the show felt so calm: as previously mentioned, I was acutely aware of the fact that most of the applause came from the sound of clapping, rather than screaming. It was a nice change, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself just as the band began my favorite of all of their songs, “Look After You,” complete with a crowd singalong moment and ending with a bit of “You Are So Beautiful.” I won’t lie: I swooned a little. (But to be clear, it was because of the music, not a fangirl moment over any of the band members.) Next they played breakout hit “Over My Head (Cable Car),” a good indicator that the night was coming to an end. They extended the song, though, breaking it down with the crowd singing and clapping furiously along. It’s a great song, and I can’t help but think that a show in the valley of cable cars has got to make the band play it even harder than they normally would.

Naturally, the set ended with current hit single, “Heartbeat.” When the guys reappeared for the encore, I noticed that the crowd seemed genuinely surprised and delighted. Joe took a sign from a fan in the front and held it up for all to see: “I ♥ The Fray,” of course. Isaac came out with an accordion while Joe settled in on the piano, each with a Corona in hand. They played their cover of “Maps” (originally by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and then Isaac opened his mouth to speak to the crowd. The applause roared up to greet him and he stopped short, soaking it all in with a smile. He asked us if anyone saw him almost fall off the stage, saying the venue needed to “tape that shit off!” He then tipped his beer our way, saying, “Cheers, Bay Area!” A moment later, one of the guys shouted, “I love this place!!” After “Run for Your Life,” Isaac thanked the audience and officially passed the mic to Joe for the last song of the night, “Ungodly Hour.”

Isaac rocks an accordion...and pulls it off!

As The Fray left the stage, finally the screams I’d been happy to be without all evening came from all around me. They held their hands up in humble thanks as they nodded their heads and ducked into the wings and out of sight. I left quickly, happy to head home after a terrific night of music from a band I’ve enjoyed for years, who’ve turned out to be even better live than they are on their albums – a rare and happy discovery. (And I certainly won’t wait as many years before I see them again!)

Stacy Scales

California native. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast. Future therapist.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin Hardee February 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm

A couple of videos from the show

The Fray:

The Wind: http://youtu.be/w_w0FiozJeI

You Found Me: http://youtu.be/94vjw70jVIU

Scars on 45:

Loudest Alarm/We Found Love: http://youtu.be/7M3Z4mAWjLk

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Martin Hardee February 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm

P.S. Great review — it really captures a great show!

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