Kelly Clarkson and The Fray team up in Mansfield

A review of Kelly Clarkson and The Fray at the Comcast Center on August 25, 2012

, Contributing Writer

Saturday night at the Comcast Center, co-headliners Kelly Clarkson and The Fray, accompanied by openers Carolina Liar, showed over the course of nearly four hours the advantages and disadvantages of being a pro. With years of experience under their belts, both artists had highs and lows based on that fact, making for a unique concert experience.

The first of the two to perform was Kelly Clarkson. A large sheet-like item covering the stage was used to project professional photos of Clarkson over the years, creating the illusion of a real “pop-star” production. In the end, the original American Idol singer’s set was anything but. Beginning with the upbeat “My Life Would Suck Without You” before diving into a few of her more serious numbers, the tiny woman’s enormous vocals made it easy to forget there was an eight-piece band behind her which included three female back-up singers. Clarkson engaged the audience after three songs, taking a few minutes to spew forth information about her sick dog, how tired she was and how great the tour was before moving on to “Dark Side”, a song that was an example of “the kind of music I like”, i.e. “sad” and “sweet”.

Clarkson’s chat with the audience is an example of one the tour’s flaws. Both she and The Fray have been at it so long – both on this tour in particular and in general – that it’s easy to forget the impact exciting crowd interactions can have on the concertgoer’s experience. The lack of major production pieces allowed both artists’ music to shine, but the good time they were having on stage didn’t always translate into a great time for the audience. Of course, with the level of devotion both have from their fans, that didn’t seem to matter.

Along with a mix of old and new tracks, Clarkson is famous for her covers, which this time around included fun.’s “We Are Young” and fan-choice “Cold Desert” by Kings of Leon, both of which were given a new twist. Other special moments included a duet with The Fray’s Isaac Slade for “Don’t You Want To Stay” (orginally recorded with Jason Aldean) and a stripped down “Because of You” with just Clarkson and the piano as well as the only “diva” moment of the show: a costume change. The crossover performer then ended strong with the classic “Miss Independent” and her new anthem “Stronger”, leaving the party as it had begun – with a bang.

The Fray came out ready and raring to have the show they were going to have. Starting things off with early hit “All At Once” and segueing into “Turn Me On” off their new album Scars & Stories, the guys on stage were grooving just as much as the audience members. Looking as comfortable as can be on stage, Slade danced his way through the first numbers before sitting down to the piano for one of their major singles, “You Found Me”. Moving seamlessly from darker sections of the set, including “Never Say Never” which began with just Slade lit by only a small light built into the piano, to the more exciting, “anthemic” part of the evening using a short cover of The Temptation’s “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” to get the crowd in the mood, The Fray knows how to work levels in a performance.

Their downfall was in being almost too comfortable on stage. While they gave a technically stellar performance and had a good time doing so, the band essentially remixed and extended half of the setlist, rarely sticking to the album version closely. It was great now and then, but at times it went on too long and made it difficult for the crowd the sing-along when they didn’t know where the next piece was coming from.

After a set of back-to-back-to-back mega-hits including “How To Save A Life”, “Over My Head” and “Heartbeat” which got the crowd amped up and had Slade removing his jacket as he ran from bandmember to bandmember, the group moved back into the more serious realm with a speech from Slade about the recent shootings around the country. “I don’t know what it means, I don’t know what to think” he said before encouraging the crowd to come together and dedicating the next few songs to the victims of those tragedies and their families. As he sang “Happiness”, Slade headed far into the crowd, but unlike Clarkson who sang from a small setup mid-way through, he climbed up to a platform on one of the venue’s large columns and serenaded the crowd from there. Whether it was planned or they ran too close to the amphitheater’s curfew, when Slade finally descended and returned to the stage after finishing “Be Still”, the crowd eagerly awaited an encore that never came and an ending that just subsided of a wave goodbye and a wish goodnight – a closing that left a bad taste in the crowd’s collective mouth.

Sadly, night which began with Carolina Liar getting the crowd as pumped up as they possibly could ended on what felt like a cliffhanger. But what was fascinating about seeing the two powerhouses on stage up against their more inexperienced openers was the good and the bad of both. While the members of Carolina Liar may have been trying just a bit too hard to get the crowd going, both Kelly Clarkson and The Fray seem to have forgotten exactly how they became the powerhouses they are today. All in all, however, everyone onstage and off had appeared to be having a great time, and the quality of music that came out of the Comcast Center that night should be applauded.

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  1. Pingback: Kelly Clarkson and The Fray team up in Mansfield | BLUE BLOG!

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