fun. at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 10/6/2013
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
fun., Hunter Hunted, Rosco Bandana Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion 10.6.13
I've got fantastic news for anyone who has been searching, was concerned, or had altogether given up: not every band today is content to half-heartedly mumble indie drivel into microphones while nonchalantly touching their instruments. Doubtful Houstonians, I give you fun.
I must preface this review by saying that I saw fun. in Paris this summer. What started as a one-off, cool addition to my jaunt in the City of Lights became the clear highlight of my week. I was beyond impressed by the group's performance, and immediately excited to see them again. Sunday night's show at Cynthia Woods did not disappoint.
fun. brought two groups of very cute young people as openers: Roscoe Bandana (energetic Mississippi indie-folk) and L.A.'s Hunter Hunted, whose sound would lend itself well to a road trip: it's high-energy enough to keep you awake, but not overly dancey that you might accidentally crash the car. And mad props for being ballsy enough to cover the Pixies, with a dialed-down version of "Where Is My Mind?", and actually succeed.
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Before fun. came on the stage, I had to ask myself if I thought the Paris show was as amazing as it had felt because, well, I was in Paris (and because I was a tad lit up on Beaujolais). But from the second that Nate Ruess opened his mouth and sang the opening notes to the "Some Nights Intro," I knew it wasn't just Paris that had enchanted me. It was the talent of this band.
As the show progressed, the audience learned that the group has been touring for two years nonstop and Sunday was their third to last show. But fun. sounded like this could be their third of the tour. Ruess can hold a note for days and it rings clear as a bell. Surprisingly, Jack Antonoff can shred on lead guitar and never seem tired. Andrew Dost is a force on piano and keyboard, and the rest of fun.'s touring group are like a band of renaissance players.
From the start of the show, one thing was very clear: Nate Ruess loves his job. If he is tired from touring, it did not show the least. His infectious smile told the audience a very clear story; that he is full of appreciation and loves his life. It says thank you.
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After the intro, the band began with "One Foot" from 2012's Some Nights, "Walking the Dog" from 2009's Aim and Ignite (a fantastic album, if you don't already have it), "All Alone" and "Why Am I the One" (their next single) and "At Least I'm Not as Sad as I Used to Be." During end of that song and the beginning of "All the Pretty Girls," which always reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra in a non-irritating way, I stopped to simply observe the crowd.
They were loving what fun. was giving them. When playing live, fun. sounds as stellar as their recordings, but somehow even better. You don't need me to tell you this is rare. It isn't dull, which can happen when a band sounds exactly like their studio work. They just sounded amplified, their melodies even more powerful and grandiose. It's completely untethered, yet still perfect in sound quality. As they played "It Gets Better," I realized that this is a band for people who truly love LIVE music: the sound is impeccable and the energy infectious.
At this time I also was able to confidently tuck away any worry that my Paris show had been solely influenced by the beauty of the city and the alcohol content of my wine. fun. had creeped into my Top 10 Live Shows Ever for good reason. It wasn't Paris. It was the band.
As the group played a bit of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2," I realized something pretty impactful: this was the first song the band had played that the entire audience had probably heard before. They had not yet played a single one of their radio hits, and no one cared; no one seemed antsy to get to the singles.
The concert was so good that people who had never even heard a fun. song would have been having the time of their lives. I would almost prefer it that way, since in my experience a lot of people haven't given this band a fair shake simply because they have popular songs on the radio. Which, you know, is idiotic and dumb.
After "Barlights" came "Carry On." For a headliner to play 11 songs before getting to a single, and to be able to completely engage an arena in the meantime, is nothing short of remarkable. We are, after all, living in the iTunes Nation of buying one song at a time. A beautiful song full of strength, it showcased the talents of the three core members wonderfully. While Antonoff played, Ruess took a moment to watch the crowd singing; again, his blushy smile spoke for itself. After two straight years of touring this album, each night feels Texas-sized good.
"The Gambler" was dedicated to Antonoff's mother. As he played back to back with Dost, it was noticeable that this band really likes one another. Breakout song "We Are Young," played next, providing the obligatory "record me on your cell phone" moment. The band rounded out their regular set with a cover of the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" that did it justice.
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This is the second crowd I've seen lately truly work for an encore: on their feet, screaming, cheering. I thought again about how amazing this is for a band with only three songs on the radio to be getting this response. But clearly I see why.
The band came back and of course played "Some Nights." It was the song of the evening. Everyone was singing along, the band was pouring passion into their work, the atmosphere just filled with music in such a palpable way. It was incredible. The band rounded out their encore with "Stars," and gave LOTS of love and props to Houston. Houston gave it right back.
Paris, Houston, wherever... fun. is an amazing live band. Let them make a believer of you as soon as you can.
Personal Bias: The band fun. lives up to its name. They put the shit DOWN. The melodies, lyrics, and musicianship are all incredible, but the live show is more than you would imagine.
The Crowd: Not surprisingly, a ton of white people. A wide variety of ages: families with smaller children, teens, couples, 15-65-year-olds.
Overheard In the Crowd: Consistent responses to all attempts by the bands to engage the crowd in audience participation. It was a beautiful thing.
Random Notebook Dump: I saw a fiftysomething man wearing a Doomtree T-shirt. In The Woodlands, Texas. At fun. Might I say, it's that kind of randomness that makes me love music all the more.
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