Sunday, September 13, 2009

Concert Review: fun. @ Kilby Court (SLC)

For their first stop on their headlining tour, frontman Nate Ruess and company (Andrew Dost of Anathallo, Jack Antonoff of Steel Train and a couple others) were met with a sold out crowd at one of Salt Lake City's most beloved (and tiny) indie venues - Kilby Court. This was my first experience in the garage-turned-concert hall (mostly just an empty shed with speakers), but at least a couple of the band members had been through before, which wasn't surprising given their involvement with other projects. A good setup so far, but while they were definitely the band the crowd was there to see, they had to do without openers Miniature Tigers - who were very unfortunately deterred by van problems and unable to make it. By the time fun. started, a very antsy group awaited them, most having stuffed themselves into position an hour or so before the music began. To be honest, fun. is such a newly formed group that I hadn't heard a thing about their live performances, so I didn't know exactly what to expect.

30 seconds into the show, however, and it became clear that any reservations on my part were unfounded; it was also clear that the crowd came well prepared. As Ruess began the first lines of the first number, "Be Calm," it seemed as if everyone in the place not only recognized the song, but knew it by heart - despite the fact that the band's debut album had been released less than two months ago (even the band looked impressed!). What followed was something like a frenetic sing-a-long in which the band and audience connected like I'd never seen before. The boys (and girl) on stage were sharp, with Ruess flailing around with the mic, squarely hitting even the highest notes (and that's saying something) while the rest stayed busy behind him on keys, drums, bass, guitar and more, easily making up for the lack of orchestration found throughout most of the album cuts. The leaner versions of the songs were just as energetic and lively, and whenever Ruess needed a backing choir - the crowd was there to help him out. At one point, during "Barlights," he ambitiously had the audience singing THREE distinct parts, and what's more spectacular is that it actually worked, creating an atmosphere that was nothing short of euphoric.

fun. played through their entire debut (ten songs), an appropriate Format cover ("The First Single") and one new number, which was the only three minutes during which Ruess was able to sing alone. Highlights from the evening included the single from the debut record, "At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)," "Walk the Dog" and their two-song encore, the intimate and romantic "The Gambler," and finally "Take Your Time Coming Home." An hour didn't feel long enough, but the band didn't exactly have much more material to play, so we had to be satisfied with what we were given - and despite its brevity, I think everyone felt their $10 had been well earned. I hadn't had such a fun (pun intended, but accurate) time at a show in quite a while and was left with a renewed belief in the power of pop music - I highly recommend fun. to you as fantastic live act.

I won't provide you with any of the pictures I took as I couldn't get a decent shot (or really even see the band most of the time), but you can take a look at the set list below, and see their MySpace page for tour dates.

1. Be Calm
2. Benson Hedges
3. I Wanna Be the One
4. Walking the Dog
5. Stitch Me Up (New Song)
6. The First Single (Format Cover)
7. Light a Roman Candle With Me
8. All the Pretty Girls
9. At Least I'm Not as Sad (as I Used to Be)
10. Barlights


11. The Gambler
12. Take Your Time (Coming Home)