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Concert review: Fun. intermittently lives up to its name at the LC

Posted by Chris DeVille | July 15, 2013 03:40 PM

Five quick thoughts on Fun.'s concert Sunday at the LC festival setting:

(1) When Fun. played The Basement (capacity: 300) on Oct. 5, 2010, the thought of them leaping to LC Pavilion's indoor stage (capacity: 2,200) by April 19, 2012 probably seemed preposterous. And the prospect of the Brooklyn pop-rockers playing the LC's rarified "festival setting" (capacity: 10,000) by July 14, 2013 was but a dream. But merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, there they were last night in front of an arena-sized crowd in an Arena District parking lot. When they finally got around to the great "Some Nights" in the encore, there was a surreal quality to Nate Ruess' spoken-word spiel, the one that goes, "So this is it. I sold my soul for this? Washed my hands of that for this? I miss my mom and dad for this?" That's the bargain, man.

(2) The setlist was comparable to Fun.'s indoor LC show last year, all the way down to the ill-advised Rolling Stones cover. One notable difference: The three official band members (Ruess plus guitarist Jack Antonoff and keyboardist Andrew Dost) started the show huddled together in a corner of the stage, decked out in tuxedos as per the promotional blitzkrieg, to run through "Some Nights (Intro)", the opening number from last year's smash sophomore LP Some Nights. I appreciated that touch of theatricality in an otherwise blindingly straightforward production. Turning to big-name hip-hop producers added a lot of character to Fun.'s sound on Some Nights, but the stage show seems to be going the other direction. Sunday's set felt plasticized, a lowest-common-denominator rock concert for everyone and no one. What do they stand for? Most nights they don't know anymore. I'd chalk the problem up to the faceless older tunes, not the presumed-sellout new material, which mostly effervesced save for the digital emo holdover "It Gets Better". I'm extremely curious to see what a Fun. concert is like once they're on to album No. 3 and debut album Aim and Ignite is all but phased out.

(3) The other exception to Sunday's utter predictability was a flash of stage banter late in the set. Compared to Taylor Swift's scripted platitudes — and make no mistake, Fun. and Swift inhabit the same world now — the off-the-cuff discussion of riding scooters around Columbus and Dost opting to stay home and write postcards was refreshingly informal, if slightly obnoxious. Ruess, of course, got in a dig at Michigan and shouted out Ohio State; obviously nobody told him about the "O-H!" thing because he definitely would have stooped to that otherwise. It was all corny as hell, but any view into the band's internal dynamic was welcome. I just wish somebody would have explained Antonoff's newsprint shorts and black tights.

(4) Execution wise, it was mostly impressive. Dost and Antonoff did well with their spotlight moments, be it Dost's flugelhorn showcase on "You Can't Always Get What You Want" or Antonoff's high-pitched squalls throughout the night; their melodies are as crucial to Fun.'s music as anything Ruess sings. As for the frontman, he has no problem hitting the glory notes on songs like "We Are Young" and "Carry On", but some of the throwaway lower-register moments were excruciating. Get a vocal coach, bruh.

(5) Due to a logistical snafu with my press pass, I missed Tegan and Sara's opening set, but they sure sounded nice from outside the gate.

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