Last Night: The Fray, Jack's Mannequin and Vedera at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Irvine; July 29, 2009.
Alternative rockers The Fray, Jack's Mannequin and Vedera paid a visit to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Wednesday; entertaining a sold-out crowd of teenyboppers, college kids, and post-grads (although, surprisingly, there was a strong representation from the 30+ crowd).
The show was uncharacteristically short for three big name acts, but the quality, energy, and emotion was apparent from the start.
Vedera began the night with about a 30-minute set, which included hits from their LP, The Weight of an Empty Room, and their latest release, an EP entitled Stages.
Vedera is led by guitarist/vocalist/pianist Kristin May. Many female-fronted rock bands struggle in their attempts to create music that resonates across the board, but there's something special about May's voice that makes Vedera stand out over most opening acts.
Orange County's own Jack's Mannequin followed Vedera with an upbeat set interlaced with a few of front man Andrew McMahon's classic piano ballads. McMahon, formerly of piano-rock legends Something Corporate, started Jack's Mannequin in late 2004 after his previous project decided to call it quits.
Shortly after penning his first album, Everything In Transit, under the Jack's Mannequin title, McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia and put the music creation process on hold. He had a remarkably quick recovery and in 2008 released, The Glass Passenger, an album laced with evidence of his struggles.
About 2/3 of the way into the set, McMahon launched into "Resolution", a song that details his awareness of how lucky he is to be alive.
"Yeah I'm alive, and I don't need a witness, to know that I survived," he sang with conviction.
McMahon then slowed things down and recalled memories of playing gigs at local venues like The Coach House and Chain Reaction.
"It looks fuckin' awesome from here," he said as he gazed out at 15,000 plus screaming fans.
The band finished with a cover of Tom Petty's, "American Girl," and as McMahon walked off he showed his appreciation with seven words: "Thanks for making a dream come true."
And then it was time for the band the majority of the fans came to see.
The Fray, hailing from Denver, Colorado, opened with a quick preview of their latest rock ballad, "Happiness," and then quickly moved into "Cable Car"--the song that put them in the map in 2005.
The set list included a solid mix of both new and old songs, upbeat rockers, and piano loaded ballads that kept the crowd on its feet and singing along with catchy hook's from songs like "How To Save A Life," and "Never Say Never." Lead singer Issac Slade admitted to not being a huge fan of LA when he first visited the city years ago, but he said Southern California has grown on him and is now one of his favorite places in the country.
I've seen the Fray in concert five times and their shows are always on point and include a throwback song or two. This time it was a tribute to the late Michael Jackson, with a rendition of "Man In The Mirror," entwined with "Look After You."
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"He was loved by many, let's sing for him," said Slade, in reference to the King of Pop.
They then moved into Kanye West's "Heartless;" a cover that has garnered some serious play on the airwaves in the past few weeks. I am personally not a Kanye fan, and while the Fray does pull this song off, it is not worth wasting three minutes of set time which could be filled with one of their own songs. After all, if I wanted to see Kanye, I'd go take out a loan and try to make it to one of his shows.
The band continued their encore with "All At Once," and then finally capped off the night with a seven minute acoustic version of "Happiness." It can be dangerous to end a show on a mellow note, but Slade sings "Happiness" with enough emotion to capture the attention of nearly every fan in the building.
It's one of those rare songs that has the ability to you back to a simpler time, make you appreciate the people who matter most, and remind you to be thankful for our own little moments of happiness that build up to create a life of fulfillment and joy.