If the name of your band is Fun., you had better bring the fun. This is especially the case if you’re making your second consecutive trip to Summerfest, this time on the most expensive stage on the grounds rather than a free stage like the year before.
Luckily for fans of the Grammy-winning, Lena Dunham-dating breakout pop stars, the band's rocking 90-minute set was exactly what the name promised, except replace the period at the end with an exclamation point.
After the openers – including a solid set from the poppy rock band Family of the Year and a spunky, dance-happy showing from up-and-coming Cincinnati rockers Walk the Moon – the New York City group took the stage, performing the waltzy "Some Nights (Intro)" bunched together around a piano under a single spotlight.
It was a surprisingly quiet start from a band most known for its pulse-pounding youth anthems. No fret. Soon after the intro, Fun. launched into the energetic "One Foot," with soaring-voiced lead singer Nate Ruess bounding, fist-pumping and skipping across the stage with a playful smile. The energy would stay at that level for just about the rest of the set.
Fun. certainly rocked the Marcus Amphitheater but without sacrificing the quality of the sound for volume. All of the songs’ parts, such as the Caribbean-tinted xylophone on "At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)" and the harmonies on "All the Pretty Girls," came through clearly.
I was happy to hear the lyrics come through so well, especially since Fun.’s lyrics are what I personally find most interesting about the group. After all, "We Are Young" and "Some Nights" feature some surprisingly bleak lyrics considering their current place as sing-a-long bar room anthems.
In between the fourth and fifth numbers – "All Alone" and the playful "Walking the Dog" – Ruess took a break from his usual tuneful and pristine vocal explosions to chat a bit with the crowd. It started as your typical concert small talk, but as the show went on, Ruess got more natural and amusing, noting that he could "get down with Milwaukee" … but he admittedly can’t spell it.
The Milwaukee love seemed sincere, as he and lead guitarist Jack Antonoff (the one reportedly dating Lena Dunham) praised Wisconsin cheese curds and our habit of eating crazy things, like "baby calf on a stick" (your move, State Fair food vendors).
As the show went on, the band nicely mixed slower ballads ("Why Am I the One," "The Gambler") with loud, energetic crowd-pleasers, like the punkish "It Gets Better" and "Barlights." The latter, of course, featured plenty of Ruess’ trademark big-mouthed yells, which combined with his on-stage swagger gave him a major Mick Jagger vibe. It only seems fitting that Fun. proceeded to do a lively cover of "You Can’t Always Get What You Want."
Eventually, the hits began to surface as well, starting with the current single, "Carry On." The band's debut smash, "We Are Young," served as the second-to-last song of the set ("Take Your Time" ended the show before the encores). I did miss Janelle Monáe’s guest part during the song’s bridge, but the anthem is still just as diabolically catchy and triumphant as when it first hit the radio.
"Some Nights" made for an awesome, heart-pounding encore and was the perfect way to end to show … which makes it even stranger that it didn’t. Instead, Fun. played one more encore, the far less blood-pumping "Stars." Mind you, it wasn’t bad; it was just a bit of a comedown from the high that was "Some Nights." The buzz of watching such a spirited and satisfying show, however, was still well in tact.
Throughout the set, Ruess seemed genuinely flabbergasted by the almost completely full Amphitheater crowd. Near the end of "Stars," he took a moment to scan and take in the entire crowd. He noted the group would love to come back and make it three years in a row at Summerfest. I don’t think the crowd would have a problem with that.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.