Last Friday night, the crowd for fun.’s Austin City Limits taping was the youngest crowd I’ve seen since I’ve been attending these tapings. Little girls and boys, dressed in all kinds of fun. merch and glitzy accessories, jumped up and down as the lights flashed off and on for the 10-minutes-to-showtime warning.
Lead singer Nate Ruess’ vocals are what drew me to fun. in the first place. His previous band, The Format, didn’t make it as far as fans would have liked, unfortunately. After the end of The Format, Ruess joined with Andrew Dost of Anathallo and Jack Antonoff of Steel Train. The threesome released Aim and Ignite in 2009, which was received with positive reviews, but after two years of dedicated touring, the band’s name was supporting itself. Some Nights was released in 2012 and it was a hit.
At ACL Live at the Moody Theater, the audience was beyond ready for the band to make its way out. And as the announcer began his introduction, the squeals began. When they reiterated the importance of turning off your cell phones, the look of disappointment on the youngsters was apparent. But the looks were quickly replaced with huge smiles as fun. took the stage.
The trio, plus three touring members, kicked off their set with the bonus track on Some Nights, “Out On The Town.” Despite the amount of the children in attendance, the “biggest fangirl award” went to some of the older ladies in the crowd. A mother in the front row literally fell to the floor in an attempt to wave to the band and get on camera at the same time. Ruess’ mischievous grin is pretty hard to resist, I suppose. The band definitely knows how what gets their enthusiastic crowd going. The next three songs were also off of Some Nights, which everyone could sing-along to perfectly. Antonoff’s guitar solos were frequent, but definitely worthy of the spotlight.
The highlights of the show were definitely when the band played tracks off of Aim and Ignite. While it isn’t as popular as Some Nights, Aim and Ignite is still a sing-along kind of album but bearing an eerie likeness to Queen. Fun.’s songwriting expertise is most evident in this understated album. After the band performed “Carry On,” which drove the crowd bonkers, Antonoff took over the microphone for a few words.
“We’ve been performing for 13 or 14 years now, so this is a special night, artistically, for us to be here,” Antonoff said. “When I first toured Austin, I played Beerland as a 16 year old guitarist. With fun., we played the old Emo’s then the new Emo’s, then the small room at Stubb’s and then most recently Stubb’s outdoors. This show means so much to us.”
The backup members exited the stage and Antonoff sat down with his acoustic guitar behind Dost on his piano seat, and Ruess told the crowd this next song is about his parents. “Gambler” is Ruess’ tender ballad that he writes from the perspective of his mother that takes you through his parents’ first encounter, to his and his sister’s birth, the near loss of his father and their now aged, but still strong, love. It was the quietest moment of the set that left some watery eyes in the crowd.
The night could have ended there, but the band had to bring the energy back up to 100 by singing 2012’s anthem “We Are Young.” Everyone in Moody Theater was on their feet, clapping and singing along. That audience-band connection was outstanding. The band jumped right into a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which was a nice surprise. While Ruess is no Mick Jagger, his booming vocals and Antonoff’s impeccable guitar riffs did the song justice.
The band brought the house down and thanked them before walking off the stage. I don’t think even two minutes passed before they were back out to wrap up the night with “Some Nights” and “Stars.” As the taping came to an end, the energy in the room was still buzzing and everyone was running on the band’s musical high. As much clapping and singing along as there was, fun. knows how to put on a show with well-done music and it’s exciting to see what the band is going to come out with next.
* Live photos by Scott Newton courtesy of KLRU.