Some nights we are all young, whether we are grade school kids seeing our first big concert, teenagers who can't get enough of pop music, parents who are chaperoning those kids, college students enjoying one of the last weekends before classes start or grown-ups who like to keep up with new music. Saturday was such a night, when fun. gave a spirited show at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
Indeed, fun. has a rare appeal to people of all ages, thanks to a sound that draws upon bands of yore (Queen in "Some Nights Intro," Simon & Garfunkel in "Some Nights" — think "Cecelia" not "Sound of Silence" — a touch of Styx in "Carry On," etc.) but with more modern production. Your cooler-than-thou friends might diss the band, but the catchiness of their hits is undeniable. And it's refreshing that their music and image aren't hyper-sexualized like that of many of the artists who grace the pop charts.
After a fine opening set in a return to town by Tegan and Sara, the tuxedo-clad members of fun. led off with the aforementioned "Some Nights Intro," the first track off their 2012 breakthrough album, Some Nights.
Then the tuxes came off and the band was off to the races, hitting most of the other tunes from that album and many from their debut, Aim and Ignite. Throughout the evening, they kept the crowd pumped up by enticing them to clap, sing and dance along to the music.
Vocalist extraordinaire Nate Ruess is clearly the star, with a voice that effortlessly soars wherever he wishes to take it. Ruess was joined by core band members Andrew Dost (guitar) and Jack Antonoff (keyboard, a bit of flugelhorn), plus touring musicians Emily Moore (several instruments), Nate Harold (bass guitar) and Will Noon (drums).
Although the crowd had been screaming its approval from the start, things really took off at the end of "Barlights," when white confetti floated down like snow onto the crowd in the pit. This was followed by their hit anthem "Carry On," at the beginning of which Ruess smiled as he brushed off a bit of confetti stuck to his face.
Next came a bit of humorous between-song banter in which Ruess attempted to position himself so a video camera could show the inside of his nose. In a PG-13 departure from a mostly clean-fun evening (there were also several F-bombs scattered throughout the night), it was suggested that the camera pan down to Ruess' genitalia. The conversation then turned to Dost's taped-up hand, which he joked was from falling off a scooter because he was going too slow. When Ruess tried "a segue," Antonoff quickly chimed in that it was "not a Segway, it's a scooter."
Returning to music, the core members played "The Gambler" with Dost on acoustic guitar and Antonoff on piano. Then the rest of the musicians came back for the band's ubiquitous smash hit "We Are Young," with the crowd enthusiastically singing along. The main set closed with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run," a song that was perhaps unknown to a chunk of the younger component of the audience and featuring bassist Harold on sax.
The encore led off with the hit "Some Nights," and while this is full of up-tempo energy, the most powerful part to me is always when it slows down and Ruess sings lovingly about his nephew. The show closed with "Stars."
Some nights the young and young at heart have a chance to have some fun. It was one of those nights at the Bowl.
Some Nights Intro
Walking the Dog
Why Am I the One
At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)
All the Pretty Girls
It Gets Better
We Are Young
Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen cover)
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.