As I waded through the crowd of screaming teenage girls, equally as enthusiastic soccer moms and what I can only assume is the next wave of cast members for “Glee,” I came to a realization: the fun. I was seeing at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium Wednesday night was not the same fun. I’d seen in the past.
Gone are the days of the up-and-coming rock band opening for an almost equally as unknown headliner, attempting to gain a foothold in the popular music world. Those days
have been replaced by the hit making, dare you to go an hour without hearing them on the radio days of a pop music juggernaut.
Admittedly, I had reservations. I really enjoyed the New York trio’s first album – 2009’s “Aim and Ignite” – but found myself less enthusiastic about its most recent effort – 2012’s “Some Nights,” including impossible to miss lead single “We Are Young” and the almost as equally as impossible to miss “Some Nights.”
Despite my reservations, I held out hope that I would leave as big of a fan of fun. as I was of lead singer Nate Ruess’ prior band “The Format.”
And through the first few songs it was happening.
Energy, enthusiasm, musicianship, connection with the audience, infectious sing-along hooks. Dare I say, fun. was bringing the fun … (apologies for the obvious pun).
But just then, as I was finally seeing what the big deal was all about – the 6 Grammy nominations, the nearly platinum album sales and the 6 million+ downloads of “We Are Young” – the night took a turn.
During an extended instrumental jam, Ruess – missing only an ascot in his attempt to join the Lake Minnetonka Yacht Club – began jumping up and down, screaming “I wanna dance” into the microphone with the bravado of a drunken college girl fresh off a breakup looking a girls night out.
I was lost and the fun ended for me.
But fortunately for the trio, which is joined on stage by a strong cast of touring members, I was the only that was seemingly lost with no chance of return.
When “We Are Young” came on, as expected the virtually full house came to life as young and old alike united for a sing-along that I can only imagine is rivaled by “Don’t Stop Believin’” at a Journey show.
Musically, my only complaint about fun. is that every song sounds like it could have been or already had been performed by somebody else. There’s elements of Queen, Journey, Billy Joel and many others in there … at times it seemed like a karaoke machine exploded and fun. popped out the other side.
As far as the imagery involved in the group’s short pre-Grammy tour, there are some highs and lows.
The highs include a slew of large screens projecting images from various angles of the stage providing an up-close look at the band members and some rather easy on the eyes graphics.
The lows include a floor-to-ceiling screen that covered the stage for the first two songs of the night – apparently projecting shapes and images (I couldn’t see from my vantage point at the side of the stage waiting to take photos). The cumbersome screen reappeared for “We Are Young,” projecting the image of flames to go along with the chorus of “so let’s set the world on fire.” An interesting aesthetic, sure, but when you can’t actually see the band you’re there to see it’s a little off-putting.
In all, the night was what I expected – a lot of crowd singing, a lot of big pop hooks and a band that quickly outgrew its roots.
The fans definitely got their monies worth, but the fun was lost on me.