By Dan Adams; photos by Nathan Berrong
When FUN performed at The Loft on Saturday, December 11, it felt more like a celebration than a rock show. It might have had something to do with the brightly-colored flashing “fun” sign positioned behind the band that was perfectly in sync with every note and influx of the music. The bright flashes of primary colors gave the stage an elementary school birthday party feeling that surely brought back only the happiest of memories. It also could have been the ever-present smile across lead singer Nate Ruess’s face. Whatever it was, you could feel excitement in the air. All the celebrating actually started well before the band even took the stage. While the equipment was being set up, the crowd decided to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” which I found very interesting because I have often likened Ruess’ vocal style to that of Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of “Queen.” I guess I’m not the only one.
After the sing along, the band quietly entered the stage and began with the opening track from Aim and Ignite, “Be Calm.” As the dramatic first lines were sang, it became noticeable that this band may be too big for the room. Ruess’s command of the crowd is proof of the heights that he was able to take his former band, The Format. FUN played like a veteran band that has performed hundreds of shows and genuinely loves the music that they create. Whenever the chorus would hit, the diversely populated crowd of pre-teens and college hipsters began to bounce in unison with Ruess. It was so fascinating to hear such an effortless larger-than-life voice come from a man who may not weigh 140 lbs soaking wet. With ease he was able to energize the crowd and own the room in such a way that they were all hanging on his every word. When he spoke between songs, it had an intimate feel that was as if we were all hanging out in his kitchen shooting the breeze. This casual and personal feel was one that could not be ignored throughout the performance.
After the band had warmed up the audience with a few favorites like “All the Pretty Girls” and “Benson Hedges,” they decided to reciprocate the crowd with an impromptu performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The song sounded sloppy, and obviously spur of the moment, but it certainly was something the crowd appreciated. It was just another way to make a connection from the stage. So many times that connection either feels forced or is not even close to genuine. Whether it is through his lyrics, his demeanor on stage, or how he interacts with the crowd, Ruess has always had a way of making his listeners feel included on whatever emotion he is experiencing. When he was with The Format, we shared his pain and empathized with the break-up of the relationship with his longtime girlfriend, which is basically the entire subject matter of Dog Problems. With FUN he has invited us to all to share in the joy of moving on, and growing up in light of such a difficult period in his life.
Before the night came to a close, the crowd was once more infused with joy during the encore when the band played “Take Your Time (Coming Home),” the final track from Aim and Ignite. It was a fitting song to end with, because of the participation it required from the crowd. The crowd chanted the word “home,” while Ruess sang the nostalgic lyrics of the song as if they were all headed home together. As FUN exited the stage, they said that Atlanta was the most memorable stop of their tour. Even though this is something that we have all heard from any given band at a live show, they had created such a connection to all of us watching that I almost believed it.