FUN. at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, 1/23/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Minneapolis
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FUN. mastermind Nate Ruess has always seemed destined to play in front of crowds like Wednesday night's 5500-person gathering at St. Paul's Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Back when he fronted a more exploratory pop outfit with the Format in the early aughts, his songwriting was perpetually whimsical and his compositional skills typically extravagant. During his first banter with last night's ass-to-elbows crowd, an ecstatic Ruess said, "Every time we come to Minnesota, we've gotta play the biggest place we've played in our lives." While most dates on their tour will play out in theaters, FUN.'s boyish leader had no problem laying the ample floor space to waste during their roadshow kickoff.

Part of Ruess's appeal has always been a willingness to indulge in hokier instrumentation and some self-effacement-both tropes that he's noticeably toned down in the wake of stardom. Still, his springy steps always seemed to reveal an artist much younger at heart than he is now. "All the Pretty Girls" from their lesser appreciated debut, Aim & Ignite, showed Ruess willing to force his vocal range to nasally, cabaret highs. Paired with some nerdy foot shuffling, he looked more like Duckie from Pretty in Pink than a top-40 heartthrob. Regardless, it's hard to look terribly uncool in front of the audacious light show they brought with them.


Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
Much like on record, the group's cheekiness is perpetually hit or miss. "At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)" softened to a playful bridge where the loungy piano part conversed with both Ruess and guitarist Jack Antonoff -- once of Steel Train fame. It's a rare hint at craftsmanship past their constantly relied-upon 4/4 structure. Still, other moments like the braking turntable loop of "All Alone" never built to anything past fashionable servitude. Apparently the group couldn't stir that track's much-needed funkspiration during their five prior days of practice out at Paisley Park, a juicy pre-tour tidbit Ruess divulged at a rare time where the Twin Cities are bleeding a deeper shade of purple.

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