Fun's Vegas Set Celebrates 'Young' Success (CONCERT REVIEW)
Although the music lives up to its name sonically, virtually all of Fun’s sophomore album Some Nights seems divined from the school of Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” a tune which many fans still don’t realize offered a sobering and even sad look at love beneath its irresistible shimmer of anthemic melodies and pop hooks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those nuances are of even less importance when the group performs live, at least evidenced by their recent appearance atop Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Hotel.
As the latest act to participate in Samsung’s concert series curated to commemorate the company’s new Galaxy SIII phone, it seemed appropriate that the commercial context of the band’s appearance faded into the background as hundreds of screaming fans chanted along in unison with lead singer Nate Ruess. Samsung invited Celebuzz to take a test drive with the device at Fun’s Vegas show, where the band demonstrated that blockbuster singles like “We Are Young” are the tip of an iceberg of talent even if the band has yet to demonstrate comparable versatility.
Anyone with an even superficial knowledge of Queen’s discography will correctly observe that the group more than passingly resembles its predecessors’ vocal style, but the music owes a greater debt to the likes of Kanye West, whose structural experimentations aren’t necessarily anything new but have turned hip-hop instrumentals into complex mini-symphonies. The vocoder effects that transform Ruess’ voice on “Some Nights” are neither technical punctuation nor camp, but a flourish added in to give the final choruses an otherworldly feeling the rest of the song’s been building to.
Standouts in the set included a terrific rendition of “It Gets Better,” albeit one stripped of the machine-gun percussion that opens the song on Some Nights. The band turned the song into more of an anthem – or perhaps it was just the crowd that did that, as a great throng of voices parroted the chorus back at the trio. “Carry On,” meanwhile, was met with almost as much enthusiasm as “We Are Young,” which they neither played first nor saved for last, in the process leveling the playing field for attendees to appreciate these other terrific (or at least equally catchy) songs.
“All Alone,” perhaps the closest song on Some Nights to their actual “Hey Ya,” easily glossed over its serious lyrics with pop sheen and sheer volume, even when the crowd matched Ruess word for word. But as Fun wrapped up its set with a charming, not-quite-featherweight version of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” it was clear there’s more to their sound than sub-Freddie Mercury melodies and a dumb-luck home run; crossover, one hit wonders (so far) or not, this is a band that has some genuine potential, operating effortlessly as a commercial conduit for sugary pop that incorporates some really interesting creativity.
And that’s not a backhanded compliment: while milquetoast pop masquerading as accidentally-successful indie-folk dominates the national consciousness, Fun demonstrates that the appetite for great pop-rock remains strong, and appreciates most when it comes with real artistic chops.