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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 8:57 am | Fair 45º

 
 
 
 

Paul Mann: The Fray Heats Up a Cool Summer Night

The Grammy-nominated band, with Jack's Mannequin and Vedera, lights up the stage at the Santa Barbara Bowl

The Santa Barbara Bowl scored again with another near-capacity crowd attending a musical and visual extravaganza, featuring Grammy Award-nominated band The Fray.

A cool breeze blew in off the ocean as the sunset painted high clouds in pastel colors on Friday. A glowing half moon hung in the sky over the ocean, helping create a mellow mood, as the concert began with Indy music band Vedera. The relaxed atmosphere was aided by assigned seating, bringing order to the usually chaotic front pit section. Fans lounged with good food and drink (what other concert venue has $4 giant gourmet pizza slices or $6 imported bear on tap?)

Vedera, hailing from Kansas City, Mo., is an up-and-coming Indy band that has been touring extensively since it was founded in 2004. The core of the band, lead singer Kristen May and guitarist Brian Little, have such a strong bond that they recently married. They have just released their second EP of quirky pop songs and continue to build a new fan base.

By the time the next band hit the stage, Jack’s Mannequin, most attendees had found their seats, as the long summer day slowly faded to twilight. Jack’s Mannequin, founded in 2004, is essentially a piano band, fronted by keyboardist and lead singer Andrew McMahon.

McMahon, has a strong voice and frenzied style sometimes reminiscent of Ben Folds. As his songs unfold, he has trouble deciding whether to stand or sit at his piano and sometimes just jumps up and down on his keyboards.

His tight rocking band allows him to extend his range, at times sounding like classic rock Billy Joel, at others much more complex and modern, similar to the style of Incubus. The band exudes a pure energy, and the mellow crowd began to come alive as the band played an explosive last song.

Darkness was setting in when The Fray took to the stage. Lead singer Isaac Slade began to sing in the dark, as an eerie spotlight slowly began to envelope him in a blue light.

As the rest of the band began to explode in a cacophony of sound, the stage lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, beginning one of the most elaborate light shows of the year at the venue.

State-of-the-art multimillion-dollar LED panels sent dancing electronic animation across the backgrounds, while myriad levels of lights and strobes created endless patterns customized and synchronized to every tempo change. Ghostly LED video screens, much like those used at last year’s Radiohead concert, added another dimension to the impressive visual feast.

The band, founded in 2002, has rapidly built an impressive musical record. In addition to its Grammy nomination, its first album reached multiplatinum sales, and its latest album has become a gold record.

The band has a sound much like Coldplay, but in some ways has more texture and layers of unique sound. At times, it has a more intense dreamlike feel to its music, more like Radiohead.

Its sound, however, is very much its own, which is revealed as it weaves a web of different moods and tempos, seamlessly throughout its concert. The mellow mood quickly turned to one of more excitement, as the band unfolded its awe-inspiring light show and rich layers of sound. Young girls screamed, and the crowd engaged in singalongs on more than one occasion. Most fans were on their feet by the end of the last beautiful night in July in Santa Barbara, and what better place to be?

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributor.

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