Review / photos: Fun. make mighty mirth at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

8

March

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No one can ever accuse Fun. of caring too little.

The indie-pop mini-supergroup has dominated iTunes’ Top Singles charts the past few weeks with the No. 1 smash We Are Young, a foot-stomping, flag-waving ode to the joys of letting go and living. Is it any wonder the song attracted the attention of both Hollywood (Glee) and Madison Avenue (Chevrolet) since its release late last year? The New York City group has tapped into something that America really seems to love -- call it hope, call it majesty -- and everyone wants to bottle it.

Fun. sort of got lost in the stellar lineup at December’s 97X Next Big Thing festival (they went onstage at 11:30 a.m.). But on Wednesday at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, they had the spotlight all to themselves. And the sold-out crowd inside reacted to the band’s grandiose piano-pop in kind, roaring with approval and screaming loud enough to drown out the State’s massive stacks.

You know those moments in Broadway musicals where it seems like everyone could break out into an upbeat number at any moment? It was like that. Except the music never stopped.

"This is it, boys, this is war! This is what I've been waiting for! Why don't we break the rules already?" singer Nate Reuss snarled on set opener on Some Nights, a song whose tribal drumbeat and massive emotional uplift owe much to Paul Simon's Cecilia.

And with that clarion call, it was on.

Wearing a gigantic smile and looking a bit like a lost Wahlberg brother, Reuss (formerly of The Format) claimed to be feeling a bit under the weather, but he fed off the frenzied energy of the crowd and rose to the occasion. Whether he’s wailing about “all the pretty girls on a Saturday night” (All The Pretty Girls) or promising to “raise the dead in St. Petersburg” (Barlights), Reuss’ lungs seem about to burst forth from his chest at any moment.

With their theatricality and unrelenting positivity, everything Fun. does seems to pay homage to the likes of Queen, Supertramp, ELO and Meat Loaf -- sometimes all at once, and all, seemingly, without a trace of irony. The acoustic singalong Hold On was easily the most Broadway thing I’ve seen at a rock concert since I saw OK Go reenact Les Miz at Crowbar, but it worked. The feel-good sea shanty Carry On and the sunny island jam At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be) are almost comically uplifting, with Reuss aching to make you feel the joy inside him. But no one at the State was laughing. They were all singing.

We Are Young, of course, left the State rattling from all the voices clamoring in unison. But the band really let the hammer drop with pre-encore closer One Foot. The word “anthemic” is unavoidable when you talk about Fun., but One Foot, with its crowd-rousing pomp and bombast, is the one song big enough to actually be a national anthem. There’s about a 50 percent some banana republic will adopt One Foot as its anthem in time for the 2036 Olympics.

All night, the crowd was as inspired as the band, delivering an extended mid-song ovation during closer Take Your Time and nearly rioting over the setlists from the stage. By the end of the night, the clearly weary Reuss was grinning ear to ear. “You’ve got a way of making me feel better,” he said.

Well, shucks, Nate. We were just repaying the favor.

Looking and sounding kind of like a Muppet version of the Strokes (we mean that as a compliment), Kentucky’s Sleeper Agent bopped and thrashed through a set full of bouncy slacker power-pop. Crammed into a too-tiny partition of the stage, co-lead singers Alex Kandel and Tony Smith kicked up their heels on single Get It Daddy. Kandel channeled Karen O on That’s My Baby, while the full band got chaotic on closer Be My Monster.

Sleeper Agent promised to "be back very soon." We have a feeling Fun. might not want to wait too long before they plan their next trip to Tampa Bay, either. The vibes here are just too good.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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[Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 12:18am]

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