The Fray and Jack's Mannequin made the perfect touring partners when their show stopped into the Dodge Theatre Tuesday. Both bands produce piano-driven melodies and songs that can get haunt your head for days. Both tend to attract a late teen to twentysomething crowd of starry-eyed girls as well as couples to their shows. Both have come along way since they played smaller venues like the Marquee Theatre last year, and both performed covers during their set (we'll get into that later). But the comparisons stop there.
While the Grammy-nominated The Fray is unarguably the more famous of the two thanks to chart-topping radio-friendly songs like "Over My Head (Cable Car)," "How to Save a Life" (the "Grey's Anatomy" theme song) and "You Found Me," which the band naturally cranked out during this concert, Jack's Mannequin put on a far better live show.
Sure, The Fray lead singer Isaac Slade had the ladies melting with those raspy vocals. How could he not? And the group's theatrical part of the concert - a glittery light show behind them - was certainly fun to watch and was a rockin' addition to their performance, but otherwise the band was almost bland at times. The Fray played it safe and there really weren't a lot of surprises when watching them. They covered a good mix of songs from 2005's How to Save a Life and their self-titled album, which they released in February, including "She Is," "Happiness," "Never Say Never," "Syndicate" and "Enough For Now."
Highlights included a solo performance from guitarist Joe King who sang "Heaven Forbid" towards the end of the set and the band's brilliant cover of Kanye West's "Heartless." But aside from that, it was a bit of a ho-hum show whereas Jack's Mannequin had the crowd bouncing from the first to the last song of their hour-long performance that had lead singer Andrew McMahon running around the stage and jumping on top of his piano at times.
Jack's Mannequin's set was void of theatrics. The guys kept it simple, letting the music do the talking. They performed a combination of material from their 2005 debut Everything in Transit to 2008's beautifully-crafted The Glass Passenger. Songs included "The Mix Tape," "Dark Blue," "Bruised," "Holiday from Real," "La La Lie," "The Resolution," "Swim," "Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)" and "Bloodshot." They closed their set with a stellar performance of Tom Petty's "American Girl," which had the crowd singing along. Their only falult? They should have been headlining a tour this summer instead of opening.
Last Night: The Fray, Jack's Mannequin at Dodge Theatre
Better Than: Sitting in a movie theatre full of Harry Potter uber-fans waiting for the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Personal Bias: I miss McMahon's band Something Corporate and I'm holding out hope that he brings them back to life sometime in near future.
Random Fact: Jack's Mannequin lead singer Andrew McMahon named 2008's The Glass Passenger to releft the headspace he was in following being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (he's in remission).
Further Listening: The Fray by The Fray and Jack's Mannequin's The Glass Passenger.
By the Way: Gotta love it when the bands reminisce about playing smaller venues. "There are a few cities that we keep coming back to and this is one of them" The Fray singer Isaac Slade shared, adding that he recalls playing Tempe's The Clubhouse Music Venue in the old school days and eating Fritos.