There's no question that Fun. is fun. The band, fronted by Nate Ruess formerly of the Format, has been compared to Elton John and Queen, turning out tracks of pop rock that are accessible, bouncy and really effing awesome to yell in your car at the top of your lungs. And the guys hit big with "We Are Young," which a whole generation is currently latching onto and will probably be singing, fists in the air, in fifteen years at a reunion while they remember the good old days. That's fun. But is it fun, period, as the band's name suggests? As in definitive fun? As in fun incarnate?
After seeing them live, I think the answer is, resoundingly, yes.
The group packed the house at the Ogden, and despite the fact that it just hit really big with the aforementioned "We Are Young," the young crowd, I was surprised to learn, wasn't just there to see the hit. In fact, a solid percentage of the audience hit the ground singing and dancing from the very first lyrics of "Some Nights," the title track of the group's most recent album, and never stopped.
But if the crowd was energetic, the band was more so: Ruess, wearing a bright yellow Fun. tee shirt underneath a jean-on-jean Canadian tuxedo, harnessed the vibe and built on it, encouraging the crowd to sing along as loud as they could while he bopped around the neon-lit stage beneath giant letters spelling FUN.
He kept the talking to a minimum as he traipsed through anthemic tracks from both Some Nights and Aim and Ignite, the band's first album, but the anecdotes he sprinkled into the show were particularly priceless: "We've been chillin' in your hood for like five days now," he announced to screams after a triumphant finish to "Why Am I the One," the third song of the night.
"The Gambler," he divulged, was for bassist Nate Harold's parents, who were in the audience from Sunflower, Kansas. And in the middle of the show, Ruess also revealed that Denver was the first place the band played together as Fun. -- "This is, uh, this is fricking amazing," he added, reflecting briefly on how much the crowd had grown since that first night.
But mostly, the band kept the show moving seamlessly, building to "We Are Young," which came second to last. And whether you knew every song or just that one, the live rendition of that track alone justified the price of the ticket; that song is fun -- period -- to see live, and the moment created when the audience screamed along to the band's kicked up and tricked out version of the hit was the very essence of what's great about seeing shows.
When it became clear that the set wasn't over, I wondered briefly how they could possibly follow that. And then came the first notes of the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." It was a brilliant move -- the only way to outdo your own big hit is by playing someone else's timeless classic -- and they exited to an explosive uproar; the members of the crowd who weren't still singing started chanting "We want Fun.!"
The encore was a lot like a fireworks finale -- an explosion of light and energy, as Ruess suggested we introduce ourselves to someone in the crowd while leading us through "One Foot" and a drawn out rendition of "Take Your Time (Coming Home)." And even after that exit, it wasn't enough -- Fun. was back for an unplanned double encore -- "We've never played a double encore," said Ruess, capping off the performance with "All Alright."
The members of Fun. are masters of the live show, and the crowd that assembled at the Ogden was all a band could ever ask for. It was a convincing argument to do what it takes to get to every live show these guys play in the area. Because they're fun. Period.
Personal Bias: Casual fan, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This show really upped the band's stock for me.
Random Detail: Much of the band's merch promotes Fun.'s support for marriage equality and gay rights. Rock.
By the Way: Sleeper Agent opened for Fun., and they're similarly theatrical on stage, if a little more frenetic and raw in sound. They'll be back in Denver on May 1.
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