It's almost that feeling that we've met before: Kelly Clarkson & The Fray in Detroit

Despite a recently sprained foot and hairline fracture, Kelly found her inner Kerri Strug
and bounced around the stage like a champ
Friday night, Kelly Clarkson and The Fray (with special guests, Carolina Liar) brought their co-headlining Stronger/Scars & Stories tour to a rainy, yet very enthusiastic crowd at Clarkston, Michigan's (Detroit area) DTE Energy Music Theatre. Fitting town name for a Kelly Clarkson concert, eh Seacrest? (see: 3:55.)

I know, you're wondering why these two seemingly different artists would choose to tour together this summer, but they actually have more in common than you think. First, both Kelly and The Fray began their professional music careers in 2002 and are therefore celebrating a decade of success. Second, while they've both earned rightful spots in modern music, they got their biggest breaks from TV shows (American Idol and Grey's Anatomy, respectively). Along those same lines, both artists' catalogs have become soundtrack staples over the past 10 years on the big and small screens. The Fray's career is arguably much more modest than Kelly's, but the two have chosen to alternate which artist headlines each particular show. In Detroit, Kelly took the stage first.
Isaac Slade fills in for Jason Aldean on his and Kelly's
country chart topper "Don't You Wanna Stay"
We all know I've seen Kelly live numerous times (25 to be exact). But, the first time I saw her perform her own act solo (and separate from her Idol counterparts) was at this same venue in August 2003, almost exactly 9 years ago. To put this in perspective, both Kelly and I were a wee 21 years old, she had won Idol less than a year prior, recorded her debut album, filmed the snubbed-by-Oscar From Justin to Kelly, and was in the Detroit area for what her fans refer to as The Mini Tour. (I, on the other hand, was a cashier at a local grocery store and trying to figure out how I would become an architect. Spoiler alert: I wouldn't.)

Anyway, this first of many times Kelly would headline in southeast Michigan was probably her weirdest. She was supposed to perform on Friday, August 15, the day after the massive east coast blackout of 2003. While my sister and fellow concert-goer worried about the possibility that the blackout was terrorist-related (being less than two years after September 11), I was only worried about my concert. With no electricity (and the realization that the blackout was caused by a soon-to-be-fired employee somewhere east of Ohio), the show was rescheduled for the following Monday. At about 2 in the afternoon. Rock and roll, right?

Turns out Kelly had to be on plane to London that day for promo of her first album, Thankful, and decided that, no, she would not cancel on the fine people of Clarkston, Michigan. The show would go on, she would perform her set, and she would leave immediately after for her trip overseas. It was a solid show (understandably rushed, but not too rushed for Kelly to sing A Moment Like This on her knees to a dying woman who would pass away later that week) and Kelly wasn't even famous prepared enough to have t-shirts for sale. Roxanne, the opening act for whom I can't find more than an out of date Myspace page, had t-shirts. No, I don't own one.
Clarkson in Clarkston circa 2003. The ticket cost $35 and I was in Row R on the side.
Yes, times have changed.

Two of the only similarities between Kelly's Clarkston set in 2003 and her set this past Friday night are Jason Halbert (her keyboard player and musical director who has been with her on every solo tour of her career) and the performance of Miss Independent (though the song has evolved significantly from the studio version to the current, guitar-heavy 2012 version. Also, Miss Independent fell in love; and the art becomes reality). The rest of the band included Jimmy on guitar, S'von on second keyboard, Akil on bass, Paul on drums, and Jessica/Angela on background vocals (I haven't forgotten their names, but if I did, they all had them written on their t-shirts with their respective roles. Seriously). Like most new artists, the remainder of the setlist was cover heavy; and because Kelly has more than a dozen major hits in her catalog, only Miss Independent remains in her regular setlist today (see full setlist below).

Kelly with current bass player, Einar Pedersen, Friday evening
Kelly has definitely come a long way since 2003. In her 70-minute set Friday night she had little room for anything but the standards (and even had to keep solid 2006 hit, Walk Away, off the list). Early hits like Since U Been Gone and Because of You (back, live with the OG ending) are still huge crowd pleasers while newer songs like Stronger and You Love Me are keeping her consistently on pop radio to this day. Only a couple cover songs are now performed each night - We Are Young by fun. and a song selected by an audience member through Twitter requests. Friday, the fan request was the location-relevant Lose Yourself by Eminem. With tongue firmly in cheek, and eyes firmly on the lyrics, Kelly rapped/sang the Academy Award winning hit surprisingly well. Only a couple miles from the famed 8 Mile (a surprisingly middle class part of town, ya know), Kelly even impressed Nathan Mathers, Eminem's brother, who was in the crowd and gave his stamp of approval.

The Fray's Isaac Slade joined Kelly on stage for her huge country hit, Don't You Wanna Stay. Normally, Jason Aldean sings his part of the song through a 20-foot tall recorded video screen, but Isaac saved this crowd from the creepy. Jordan Meredith, one of Kelly's partners on ABC's Duets, also made a surprise appearance to perform Miranda Lambert's Mama's Broken Heart with Kelly.

After Kelly's set, The Fray had their turn to perform to the incredibly energetic crowd that hung on every note by each of the headlining artists. I have to admit that I'm not all too familiar with The Fray's non-radio/non-Shonda Rhimes material, but they do put on a really good show (and How to Save a Life may not have saved Denny Duquette, but it is still one of the best songs of the 00s). Isaac only sits still for the piano portions of the setlist, choosing to (literally) run across the stage and into the crowd for several songs. For two songs, he found himself at a strategically placed keyboard in the back of the pavilion to play to the "cheap" seats.

I get to meet the band in Cincinnati this Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to it; along with learning more of their lesser known tracks.

Please check out all my photos of Kelly, The Fray and Carolina Liar here.

Kelly Clarkson Setlist DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI, USA 2012

More Kelly Clarkson setlists

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