Fans at the Galen Center who are usually cheering for the Trojans on the basketball court sang a different tune Thursday night — one that included lyrics from The Fray’s music.
As The Fray opened its second show at USC with “You Found Me,” the most well-known song from the self-titled sophomore album the group released in February, the audience had no trouble showing excitement over the piano-driven rock band’s return to campus. All it took was a “Come on Trojans, on your feet” from one of the The Fray’s lead vocalists, Isaac Slade.
After opener Dose of Adolescence’s over-the-top rock style — the kind in which you can’t understand a single word the lead vocalist is singing or, rather, yelling — it is no surprise that the audience was eager to take in The Fray’s much subtler, more captivating musical talents.
Playing a mix of songs from its first and second albums, the band demonstrated that not only does its music have the ability to sell records, but it can also translate into an enthralling live performance.
While some artists use elaborate backdrops, costumes or movement onstage to capture the audience’s attention, The Fray played against a plain black curtain on a makeshift stage.
Aside from a few instances where intriguing lighting was used, it was the simple combination of Slade and guitarist Joe King’s mesmerizing voices and the instruments that all four band members skillfully play that kept all eyes and ears in the arena entranced.
Especially captivating were the songs that brought out the purity of Slade and King’s voices by placing them against the accompaniment of a single instrument or a simple instrumental backing, as was the case in “Happiness,” which Slade sang with both passion and perfection.
As Slade and King alternated between singing and playing the guitar and piano, while Ben Wysocki and Dave Welsh accompanied them on the drums and guitar respectively, the group’s love for music radiated endlessly throughout the arena.
The Fray’s inevitable inclusion of “How to Save a Life,” the song for which its first album was named, took the level of audience engagement and interaction to a new height.
Because it was obvious that nearly everyone in the crowd knew every word to the chart-topping song, Slade held out his microphone at the end, allowing the many voices that filled the sold-out arena to finish the song for the band members — a reminder of just how big the band that decided to come back and play another small show at USC had become.
Amid outstanding live renditions of many of its own songs, the foursome included in its repertoire a cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless,” a rendition the band recently recorded that is arguably better suited to the song’s message than the original.
The Fray’s only fault in its Thursday night show at the Galen Center was that the band wasn’t on stage long enough — or at least, that is how it felt. The hour the band did spend on stage, however, was jam-packed with flawless, heartfelt performances.
Among the three songs in The Fray’s encore was the slower “Never Say Never,” which was performed with such vigor that it could have served as the show’s conclusion.
But the show closed on a more upbeat note with the band’s widely known “Over My Head (Cable Car),” which had the entire audience back on its feet and animatedly singing along.
If anyone in the audience wasn’t already a fan of The Fray, the show opened their eyes and ears to the great aptitude that the group holds. To be able to perform songs that you’ve played countless times with the same level of passion and perseverance as if it were for the first time, as The Fray did on Thursday night, is the mark of a truly talented group of musicians.