This would be my fourth time seeing fun. within the last twelve months. The first time was in the parking lot of a record store in Austin, TX. That show only featured the core of the band: vocalist Nate Reuss, keyboardist Andrew Dost and guitar player Jack Antonoff. It was 2 o clock in the afternoon in the baking hot sun, and the crowd was simply mad for them. I knew from that moment that this band had the right balance of sincerity and showmanship to make it big. It was a rare moment when I wanted to get to see a band play the big rooms. Shortly after this show, “We Are Young” became a monsterous hit, and their full band, electric club tour that was booked at tiny clubs turned into the hottest ticket in town. Tonight, a short 11 months after that first time in the record store parking lot, I got to see this band do the “full big room” show. And, by golly, the succeeded at it.
As warm up for our proceedings, we were treated to a performance by Andrew McMahon, best known for being the lead vocalist of the piano driven pop punk band Something Corporate, as well as his more subdued project, Jack’s Mannequin. Behind me I heard someone mutter that he looked like Barry Manilow, so throughout his set I couldn’t help but compare the two. Much like Manilow, McMahon is not the greatest singer on Earth, nor is he the greatest pianist. What he can do is write a melody that clings to you. Despite the solo billing, he was backed by a full band: bass, drums, guitar, keyboards. He rarely moved away from the comfort of the piano, though, opting to let the songs speak for themselves, not the show. A highlight of his set was a piece called “Learn To Dance,” which was introduced as a new song. It was an amazingly energetic, optimistic, and danceable number. His band locked into a tight groove, and even managed to pull of a dubstep breakdown. Only, unlike say Taylor Swift or Muse attempting dubstep, it was very natural and sincere. His entire 45 minute set was pleasant, despite him ignoring what is arguably his biggest hit, “The Mix Tape,” he still managed to keep the crowd quite content.
fun. took the stage behind a giant holographic image of their logo slowly increasing in size until it filled the gigantic stage at the beautiful Fox Theater. Once the logo became to big to be contained in it’s space, one of the most elaborate stages I’ve ever seen tucked inside a 3,000 seat theater was revealed! The stage was littered with giant TV screens, another video screen that seemed to hid half the time, and, in an absolute genius move, a mirror, roughly the length of the performance area, hung about the stage, angled just so you could see the reflection on the front of the crowd in the mirror. It was a brilliant move that actually helped give you the perspective of the band! You could really see the thrill of an excited crowd before your very eyes, because it was there, increasing the overall energy of the room!
The first song was Some Nights bonus track “Out On The Town.” It was big and boombastic, as many of fun.’s songs are. It was also a surprise to see them open with a slightly obscure cut. Of course, the crowd was filled with such passionate fans that everyone know all of the words to this song, even. Taking it into familiar territory was “One Foot,” a song so well crafted with lyrics so crisp and vivid that when I first heard it, I thought it was a showtune. The crowd ate up every moment of it, singing along to every word, while not skipping a beat on the dance floor. The song goes in an amazing number of directions for a pop song, down to oodles of time signature changes, as well as a great sax solo by touring member Emily Moore.
As the night progressed, the stage kept changing. For Aim and Ignite‘s single “All The Pretty Girls (On A Saturday Night,” the stage evolved into a starry night cityscape. At other times we had laser fun., fun. from the audience perspective, the stage on fire, and countless other identities, making each song a completely unique experience. They were also having a ball, with Reuss and Antonoff having some of the best on stage banter I’ve heard in a while, including discussing swearing in front of kids (which there were plenty of in the crowd) and their appreciation for East Bay Hard Core (which prompted Antonoff to bust out 15 seconds of AFI’s “High School Football Hero”). The set list, which was about 25% Aim & Ignite and 75% Some Nights flowed like a perfectly oiled machine. The last year on the road has definitely perfected this band that was already great.
The end of the set featured a fantastic surprise. In between their two monster singles, “Carry On” and “We Are Young,” the band opted to introduce a brand new song. This piece, titled “What The Fuck,” according to the set list, was a huge piece that borderlined on “rock opera” territory. They said from the stage that they are likely to never record, as they want to keep it as a treat for the live audience. I agree, they shouldn’t record it. They should flesh it out into a true rock opera and turn “What The Fuck” into their Tommy.
The notion that we can live in a world where band like fun. can become true rock stars thrills me beyond belief. It’s not every day when we see this level of musicianship, creativity, and intellect in pop music. This is a band that breaks through every barrier, that manages to stick to their artistic credibility while also succeeding. It proves that if you give the people something good, they will embrace it. God bless fun., and may they continue to take over the world.
Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2013 Jonathan Pirro.