With the emo-ish party anthem "We Are Young," fun. has gone where few pop bands go -- to Top 40 radio alongside Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and other superstars.
Now, singer Nate Ruess, who's been at this for more than a decade, having co-fronted Arizona indie-pop band The Format, suddenly finds himself playing to mobs of screaming girls. That being a notoriously fickle audience, Friday night's sold-out show at Stage AE, more than just a concert, was a chance to hook some fun. fans for the long term.
While fun.'s music isn't geared to Pitchfork or Rolling Stone readers, it does go beyond the typical Radio Disney fare, as it's not JUST about getting to the catchy hook. The band's sound is playful with a little bit of Queen cabaret to it, a little Vampire Weekend, a little Devo even, with Andrew Dost's New Wave-y keyboards. On top of that, Mr. Ruess writes more perceptively than the typical teen-pop act while tossing in twists of irony. He also flashes a vocal range comparable to Adam Levine or the Shins' James Mercer.
The band arrived with the brassy "One Foot," Mr. Ruess sporting an all-cap "FUN." tank top and skipping across the stage in front of a "FUN." backdrop. You could tell right away by the reaction to the Queen-like anthem "Why Am I the One" and then the sing-along on "All Alone," another potential hit, that at least some of the fans dug beyond the single or saw them on the way up at Mr. Smalls.
The group bounced between songs from "Some Nights" and debut "Aim and Ignite," which was greeted with the same excitement. The crowd was so wound up during the rollicking narrative of "At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)," the singer had to stop and say, "You guys are amazing, by the way."
The three core fun. guys were joined by an extra trio who helped build a wall of sound, including keyboardist/guitarist Emily Moore, who chimed in sweetly on vocals.
The fun ranged from the clanking power-pop of "It Gets Better" and "All the Pretty Girls" to the stadium-size "Some Nights" to twee wedding song "The Gambler," sent out to the singer's girlfriend on her birthday.
Even though everyone has to be a bit sick of it by now, "We Are Young" was greeted with boy-band-level hysteria and spiked by a loud, guitar-fueled finale. Sure enough, the fans were young but still able to sing along to "You Can't Always Get What You Want" -- regardless if they knew it was a Rolling Stones song.
What was clear was that by the end of the night, the shouts of "Fun! Fun! Fun!" were punctuated with exclamation points, not periods.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. First Published June 16, 2012 4:00 AM