March 28, 2012
Better than: The last decade of would-be graduation songs.
It could have been one of those shows in which a sold-out crowd merely waits to hear that one song -- in this case, "We Are Young," the Super Bowl ad-boosted insta-anthem that has Fun. atop Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart for the fourth week in a row.
But it wasn't. Instead, the New York trio (fleshed out into a six-piece for the live stage) demonstrated that "We Are Young" is just the best-known entry in a catalog of bouncy, unabashedly inspiring pop-rock songs; piano-driven empowerment soundtracks custom-built for the Twitter generation.
Yes, "We Are Young" got the crammed-full Independent singing the loudest, its thundering drums and sky-scraping chorus melody seeming far too large for this 500-capacity room. (We have no idea how the band won't blow up Bottom of the Hill when it plays there tonight.) The story goes that Fun. secured the services of noted producer Jeff Bhasker for its latest album after Nate Ruess sang the vocal to him in an NYC hotel room. And indeed, it was hard not to hear all kinds of magnificence when Ruess repeatedly reached up into the ceiling of his range to sing "let's set the world on fire/ we can burn brighter/ than the sun" for this song's chorus. It's that kind of pop perfection that just blasts you in the face. And as many have pointed out, its message of earnest hopefulness seems likely to make it the "Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)" for the Class of 2012. Kids today could really do much worse.
The place of "We Are Young" in last night's performance -- it was the penultimate number of the main set -- betrayed Fun.'s confidence in the rest of its tunes. "Some Nights" followed it up like the fast-paced call-to-action sequel; all the hugeness of "We Are Young," but with a foot-tapping tempo and panoramic vocal harmonies that feel like something you would've heard at LiveAid. (While Ruess' Freddie Mercury debts are plain on the band's recordings, though, his live voice has a bit less theatricality.)
Most of the rest of the setlist was aimed at delivering max pop pleasure and seemed to succeed, especially the opening trio of "One Foot" (huge bass thud; wait for this to be the third album single); "Walking the Dog" (off the band's first album, but many in the crowd knew the words); and "Why Am I the One" (worth it just for the line: "My night's become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles"). The audience reaction to these three songs was one long ecstatic cheer. When the roar didn't subside, Ruess simply stood at his mic, flashed a big grin, and laughed: "So lemme guess, this is a 21 and over show? And the vino is flowing? Sweet, so we're on the same page."