In today’s musical epoch of auto tune, vocal distortion and studio effects, even the most tone-deaf choir flunkie can be made to sound like a “Roxanne”-era Sting. Therefore it is a rare and unequivocal pleasure to attend a concert and discover that despite all precedents, the artist performing actually sounds good live.
Rocking a late-night set at Oakland’s Fox Theater last Thursday, singer Nate Ruess belted out the crystal-clear vocals patented by the band. Never faltering, he sounded reminiscent of a young, crisper Freddie Mercury, with incredible range and vocal dexterity.
After the mellow, catchy set list of opener Andrew McMahon (whom, coincidentally, Fun. opened for last year before exploding big with “Some Nights”), Fun. took the stage and started strong with fan favorite “Out on the Town.”
Those onstage included guitarist Jack Antonoff, melody magician Andrew Dost on keys and two tour members to help handle drums and back-up guitar. Meshing seamlessly, the group performed perfectly synchronized, and sounded just as they do recorded.
This stop on the tour marked one in a long line of promoting their latest album “Some Nights” released early last year. Although the material has been on the airwaves for a while now, the songs still sounded fresh, and the band looked like they’d never get sick of playing them.
During the show, the constant barrage of one song after another would occasionally stop so that Ruess could banter with the audience. Topics included the band being a fan of East Bay music growing up, once opening for their opener and Antonoff’s severe allergy to cats.
The only thing more captivating than Ruess’ voice was his movement. In perpetual warp-speed, he bounced across the stage like an eccentric general addressing his fanatical army. The band behind him only fueled his energy, tirelessly pumping out the type of upbeat, good-time ballads that one might sing with a group of close friends while returning from a night out at the bars in the band’s native New York City.
This flesh and blood recitation vigorously enhanced most songs, although due to Fun.’s recent experimentation with studio effects on “Some Nights”, the tracks peppered with auto tune sounded canned live.
But overall, the raw energetic style of frontman Ruess was distinctly intimate. The musicians’ comfort playing with one another showed, and the ensemble consumed the stage like a raucous organism — its blood, the power pop melodies coursing through their instruments, and its pulse, their trademark thumping drum rhythm.
Spacing out the more popular singles, the artists gave the impression of playing the songs they wanted to, which were largely an assortment of deep album cuts from “Aim and Ignite” and “Some Nights.” After concluding their line-up, the band was called out one last time to do a show-stopping encore of the song “Some Nights,” which would afterward serve as the anthem ringing through the BART tunnels as audience members returned home.
Seeing Fun. live demonstrated that perhaps the mainstream music industry today is not as far gone and contrived as the cynics claim it to be. It appears that genuine talent still exists and can be highly entertaining live. Although the lyrical subject matter might not be anything high concept or too difficult to chew on, the band name lives up to the exact feeling radiated by their performance: an uncomplicated, straightforward good time, period.
Contact Ryan at [email protected].