Arts Extra: Live Music Review of FUN. at The Jefferson

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FUN. pulled in a full house of faithful fans at The Jefferson Theater on Saturday.

The Tigers, touring with Fun. since April, generated a good deal of buzz with releases in 2008 and 2010. The bulk of their tunes Saturday were from their March 2012 album, Mia Pharaoh, which moves away from a sweeter, sunnier early sound toward psychedelic pop—something like the trippiest Fleet Foxes tracks layered with synth beats and, regrettably, some very Katy Perry-esque lyrics.

But Charlottesville liked what they were selling. A solid crowd arrived early to hear the fivesome, led by frontman Charlie Brand, who switched off between strumming an acoustic and strutting around with mic in hand.

The band has an earnestness that borders on downright high school awkwardness onstage, with a lot of deliberate swaying and head-bobbing. But the vocal hijinks—from Brand’s falsetto to the sugary, acid-flecked harmonies of the catchy, if repetitive, “Easy As All That”—were spot on. Before ceding the stage to their tour partners, they pulled out the stops for “Sex on the Regular,” a dance-worthy tribute to heavily synthed ’80s pop that won them a hearty send-off.

But it was the indie pop act du jour that the crowd was saving itself for. Fun.— the core group of Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff joined by a trio of touring members—came out swinging before the packed house with “One Foot,” and the single’s punchy, horn-heavy beats set the stage for the espresso-fueled enthusiasm of the show to come.

Even the blaring of an errant fire alarm that interrupted the third song of the night, the broad, plaintive “Why Am I the One,” couldn’t slow things down. Ruess is an electric presence, and as he buzzed around the stage, tossing the mic from one hand to another and running his fingers over keyboards, he rallied band and crowd around him from one catchy hook and striving song to the next.

The enthusiasm from the floor reached a fever pitch on the wildly popular single “We Are Young,” and after the band wrapped up with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” the audience cheered them back onstage for an encore that included the title track from their latest album, “Some Nights,” and an earlier effort, “Take Your Time (Coming Home)”—a fitting parting salvo for a tour-ending evening.

The phenomenon of the indie supergroup is getting pretty tired, but Fun. manages to bring together solid talent for a sound that’s much more than the sum of their parts, marrying an appealing pop sound with a healthy dose of show-choir quirk. And the relentlessly upbeat wall-of-sound translates beautifully to a live setting—in front of an audience, they make it their mission to live up to their name and send everybody home grinning.

Still, there’s always somebody sour; I overheard a collegiate hipster snarking on “bands where the lead singer doesn’t play an instrument” in a bathroom line after crews started breaking down the stage.

Can’t please ‘em all, but Fun. sure delivered for most of their Charlottesville fans.
 

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