Amp-Smashing Fun. at the Global Citizen Festival

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“This has got to be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played in front of,” Nate Ruess exclaimed breathlessly. The lead singer went on to say how honored they were to be there, with the excitement of a little kid slipping into every word. Fun. was propelled into household-name-fame almost overnight with their 2011 hit single, “We Are Young,” so it’s not totally shocking that they would sit cozily in the middle of the prestigious Global Citizen Festival lineup. But whether or not they still qualify as underdogs, many still think of them that way, and their presence at the event was especially thrilling for all those who have adored them since The Format. There is just something about their sweet, scrappy determination that turns any crowd into an army of fans.

Fun.’s setlist at the Global Citizen Festival included “Some Nights,” “One Foot,” “All Alone,” “At Least I’m Not as Sad as I Used to Be,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones cover),” “We Are Young,” and “Carry On.” If you know Fun.,  you know it’s all about the performance energy. But as someone who has five Fun. shirts and a poster, even I have to admit I heard some serious nervous energy taking over in the beginning of their set.

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Ruess’ statement about the size of the crowd is pretty telling, and possibly the reason he sounded a little shaky on their first song, “Some Nights.” Starting off a capella is a bold move, especially when it is just you and 60,000 people. (Not to mention a global live broadcast.) When the band entered, it still sounded slightly unhinged, but they managed to lock it in and really nail the rest of their show. Keyboardist Andrew Dost played a crucial role in getting them all in sync, and from there on out, it really was fun. The audience popped dozens of beach balls in the air and sang along to the happy anthems as freely as you would sing in the shower. Their cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones sounded amazing. It felt even more amazing as thousands joined in to sing.

One interesting note: the sound suddenly dropped out of one particular line in “Some Nights,” although it did air in the televised version. The words, “all dried up in the desert sun” were muted, probably in light of the festival’s focus on providing clean water to impoverished nations. Which means they quite possibly have the most courteous and attentive sound technician on the planet.

When a band has a couple of songs that are insanely popular, sometimes they can sound a little tired the billionth time around. Fun. never falls into that trap. Despite the fact that they can probably play some of these songs in their sleep, no two shows sound alike. Their characteristic boldness grew more and more with each song on Saturday. Between ecstatic grins and spiraled jaunts around the stage, Ruess whipped around vocal phrases however he saw fit, with the kind of confidence that comes along with a couple Grammys. When guitarist Jack Antonoff began kicking and stomping on his amp at the end of “Carry On,” it was, as always, hard not to love them to death.

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