Live, fun. is fun. Period. And they proved it last week at Great Scott in Alston MA.
Originally I was skeptical as to how the bill, a perfect storm of catchiness, that opened with Miniature Tigers was going to translate on stage. Aim and Ignite is an album that maintains a lot of its tone and consistency with shifts in the mood of its arrangement and a more-than-healthy dose of strings and brass. Sure, the songs are undeniably melodic, but I worried about how Nate Ruess’ off-Broadway indie pop delivery would fare in a different setting. Would they try to replicate the arrangements? How would that play to a bar crowd? What would their lineup deliver?
It turns out I was right to be skeptical, but not worried. fun. delivered, and wasted no time whipping the crowd, crammed into the trendy Allston bar, into a frenzy. Indie pop was power pop. The riffs were bigger, the choruses more swooping and the energy unwavering. The crowd, which seemed mostly of the under 21 variety, was engaged from the first note, and for good reason.
fun. started the with style, launching acappela into “Benson Hedges” with each member in full voice. It was a breathtaking opener that immediately ramped up the mood set by Miniature Tigers, which is some feat considering that not only did Miniature Tigers turn in a great set, but they ended with a cover of “Mamma Mia.”
Unfortunately, after “Benson Hedges” the energy stayed, but my interest wavered. The crowd stayed involved, dancing and clapping in all the right place, no cues needed, but removed a bit from the furor, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the live arrangements of my favorite moments of Aim and Ignite. That’s not to say that I didn’t understand the choices or appreciate the show. fun. did nothing short of rock, but without the strings and the brass, some nuance was missing and it seemed like that nuance was what held back some of the campier elements of their songwriting on the album, and live, supported by the traditional rhythm section, the camp was felt full force. By the time they reached the part of the catalogue that held “The Gambler” the shmaltz was a little bit too much for me.
To their credit, fun. sounded like they were in the studio, their playing was so tight. They played what is sometimes an awkward space acoustically at Great Scott perfectly. The rhythms were locked in, the harmonies spot on, the showmanship engaging and Nate’s voice was nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it is as good as it is on the album, and they let him cut loose some high notes and shine to the delight of the crowd. His poor man’s Freddie Mercury act was running on all cylinders, which was impressive to see in person. Wisely, few artists dare to try to do the Mercury classic Queen routine in all its pomp, power and range. Nate tries and he damn near succeeds, which in itself is a feat worth going to see.
Photos by Sarah Coyne