fun., Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center, 5/31/12
See also: Nate Ruess Has Some fun. At Zia Records
fun. frontman Nate Ruess wears his heart on his sleeve, and that's why it's so easy to get into his head. His lyrics -- part stream of consciousness ("My friends are in the bathroom, getting higher than the Empire State"), part diary entries ("So this is it? I miss my mom and dad for this?") -- practically invite you in.
The guy's got something on his mind, and he wants to tell you what it is.
His lyrical transparency isn't the only reason for fun.'s total domination of the Ikeda Theatre stage at Mesa Arts Center last night. No, keyboardist Andrew Dost's piano pop melodies and guitarist Jack Antonoff's classic bar rock affectations had a lot to do with it, too (as did the live band: bassist Nate Harold, drummer Will Noon, and guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist, saxophonist, all-around-charmer Emily Moore). But Ruess is the centerpiece, the guy bouncing around the stage, the guy telling jokes about Glendale's cat killers, the guy pouring it all out.
The guy, most clearly, who felt very, very happy to be home.
After all, it was the Phoenix metro area where Ruess first experienced the kind of screaming intensity he now does all over the country. I didn't spot any Format shirts -- not like I did when the band played Zia Records earlier this year -- but the hometown connection is obvious. "We've got a good thing going Mesa," Ruess said smiling.
Jason P. Woodbury fun. at Mesa Arts Center
So much of Some Nights, the band's blockbuster album, is concerned with leaving Phoenix that returning could feel strange -- that whole you can't go home again thing -- but Ruess seemed happy to be back, and the sea of screaming fans couldn't have hurt. (I mean it, the kind of high-pitched, piercing noises that can only come from excited teenage girls.)
Antonoff was nearly as animated as Ruess, soloing and washing the taut pop compositions in sheets of distortion. No one in fun. slacks off, but he's clearly the most "rock 'n' roll" of the bunch -- striking poses while Ruess dances and Dost keeps his head down at the keyboards.
Jason P. Woodbury