Kelly Clarkson and The Fray, US Airways Center, 8/1/12 (VIDEO)

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Kelly Clarkson and The Fray
US Airways Center

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

See also: Pop Isn't Dead, and Here's 7 New Songs That Prove It

If there was one thing that was surprising at the Kelly Clarkson show at US Airways Center last night, it wasn't that Clarkson looked smoking hot as she wore a flattering, form-fitting dress. It was that she was the opener for The Fray.

Yes, you read right -- Miss Clarkson performed before The Fray on their co-headlining tour, and the acts have been switching spots all tour. Considering Clarkson has probably the most beautiful voice in America, that fact was just blasphemous. The tour should have never been put together this way -- instead, Clarkson should have sold out Comerica Theatre like she's used to, and The Fray would have been better at a smaller venue such as Marquee Theatre.

But alas, Clarkson hopped on-stage after first act Carolina Liar, singing her way through nearly an hour-and-a-half of her hits on what is her Stronger tour. Her voice was the show, which was a little disappointing considering the show was in an arena.

For such a large crowd, you'd expect there to be more fanfare on-stage, with bigger sets, bolder transitions and more crowd banter. But perhaps because the co-headliners had limited time and leeway, Clarkson's set was sweet and simple -- well, there was a holographic Jason Aldean, too, but that was the craziest thing I saw. I would have preferred the show in a more intimate venue considering her voice was the focus, but she still hit so many high notes that her amazing vocals almost made the ticket price worth it.

Clarkson, in a long blond ponytail, was accompanied by a five-piece band and three backup singers. She made her way through both classics and tracks from her latest album, Stronger, throwing in some amazing covers. The highlight of the night was when she walked through the crowd to the back of the arena to sing a cover of fun. (and hometown boy Nate Ruess)'s song "We Are Young." It was nice to see her give the people in the back a little love, and it was a memorable crowd sing-along.

The last part of Clarkson's set was the most fun, because it was the most colorful and had the coolest lighting effects. I'm not saying Clarkson needs cheesy storylines or tacky costumes on her next arena tour, but at least a more dynamic set will make her show just as visually appealing as her music -- maybe more crowd involvement or a cooler stage would have been more fun to watch than her just walk around, though her voice was on-point save for just a couple cracky and breathy moments.

The Fray couldn't hold a candle next to Clarkson. While some people did leave the four-fifths full arena immediately after Clarkson's set, it was even sadder to see more leave after The Fray had already started playing. Singer Isaac Slade couldn't command the crowd and lacked a genuine connection to the music, it seemed. Several times, he acknowledged the crowd was sitting down, and even when he implored the audience to stand up and dance with him, his robotic rhythm made me wish I had just sat back down.

Unlike Clarkson's set, which consisted of an all-white background on the stage and lots of colorful outfits, The Fray's was melancholy, with an all-black background and attire. Adding to the lacklusterness of the performance was the odd dedication of a couple songs to the victims of the Aurora shooting and to Gabrielle Giffords. Slade may have had good intentions when he compared what "Arizona went through" to what his home state of Colorado "went through" recently, but the sentiment was lost because Slade seemed confused himself as he was talking. He said he initially wanted to give a moment of silence for the victims, and I wish he just would have because that would have been far more powerful than anything he was saying.

The Fray played all their radio hits, and guitarist Joe King even got to sing a song, "Ungodly Hour." His on-stage charisma was in fuller force than Slade's, but the whole concert made it evident The Fray is meant to be a radio band.

Besides the lack of energy on-stage, the vocals were impossible to understand. The arena setting swallowed them whole, and they'd probably put on a more engaging show in a more intimate venue. The combination of The Fray and Clarkson's effervescent pop probably makes sense on paper, but it felt off in execution.

See more videos on the next page.

Personal Bias: I'm a huge fan of Clarkson -- The Fray, not so much.
The Crowd: Probably 60 percent female, 40 percent male, a good mix of ages 20-45.
Heard in the crowd: "You know why they're playing together? Because they're played on the radio together." Dang you, 96.9-FM!
Random Notebook Dump: I was impressed with how crazy the gentlemen in the crowd went for Clarkson. She's certainly a hit with the fellas, too!

Kelly Clarkson Set List:
My Life Would Suck Without You
Behind These Hazel Eyes
I Forgive You
Dark Side
You Love Me
We Are Young (fun. cover)
Already Gone
Don't You Want to Stay (with Jason Aldean)
Don't Speak (No Doubt cover)
Let Me Down
Since U Been Gone
Because of You
Mr. Know It All
Miss Independent

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