Durham Performing Arts Center—With its mix of ringing piano ballads pulled by breathless vocals and guitar rock pushed by economical-rock-band backing, Denver quartet The Fray is America's strait-laced answer to Coldplay. Most of the connotations that might carry hold, too. Despite the broader textures and tweaked structures of its self-titled second record, for instance, The Fray writes much more conservatively than its British counterparts, distending dynamic leaps until what's left is little more than a long incline to and decline from a shapely, concordant chorus. Sort through all the band's singles—the well finessed "Over My Head (Cable Car)" or the droopy "Never Say Never" and "How to Save a Life"—and you won't be jarred once. To wit, frontman Isaac Slade replaces Chris Martin's effuse romanticism with a heartland pragmatism, offering parables that seem like motivational speeches and Sunday school lessons. Still, over the last five years, The Fray has achieved what very few rock bands have this decade: an ability to craft the kind of irresistible songs whose hooks become household hymns, or that, after a hearing in a Starbucks or Food Lion, you never forget. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29.50-$45. Visit www.dpacnc.com. —Grayson Currin
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait
Griffith Film Theater, Duke Campus—In the three years since its release, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno's monumental 17-camera study of the great French soccer player Zinedine Zidane has achieved renown in the often obscure world of experimental documentary. The film is nothing more than a real-time observation of "Zizou" during a 2005 game with his team, Real Madrid. Although his fabled squad included fellow galacticos David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Luís Figo, Ronaldo and Raúl, the film remains fixated on Zidane, trying to bring the viewers closer to his sensations and impressions as he performs in front of 80,000 people. By the end, we feel that we've lived through 90 minutes in the skin of one of the world's most famous footballers. The film counts among its fans Spike Lee, who later made a similar film devoted to Kobe Bryant, but not everyone loves it: Many soccer fans have found it to be excruciatingly monomaniacal (and artsy-fartsy), while devotees of art cinema are not always fans of sport (even when it's European).
Zidane, which screens for free at 8 p.m. at Griffith Theater, is the first event in a semester-long seminar on soccer and politics at Duke, devised by scholar Laurent Dubois. Among the highlights later in the fall: a visit by retired French soccer star and human rights activist Lilian Thuram. Visit www.soccerpolitics.com for more information. —David Fellerath