fun. fun! fun* Punctuation doesn't matter

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2013 - 10:57 AM

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Much fuss is made over the official presentation of the moniker of the hit-making pop band "fun." Yes, that's a lower-case "f" and a period at the end.

With the way fun. has been going -- scoring arguably the biggest song of 2012 ("We Are Young"), another top hit ("Some Nights") and six Grammy nominations (including album of the year and best new artist) -- maybe it's time to change the punctuation to fun!

But, frankly, after seeing the New York trio kick off its eight-city pre-Grammy tour Wednesday at sold-out Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, maybe fun* would be more appropriate.

The asterisk might be necessary because, even though the group was talented, energetic and entertaining, nearly every song was blatantly derivative of some other hitmaker. The chorus of "Why Am I the One" started like Alanis Morissette and finished like Elton John. "Carry On," fun.'s most recent single, sounded like Yes' Jon Anderson delivering a Styx ballad. It wasn't all sonic flashbacks. The Auto-Tuned encore "Stars" suggested Owl City gone reggae. And the big hit "Some Nights" came across like a buoyant Mumford & Sons pop march.

And these New York upstarts reached a low point on the new, unrecorded "What the bleep," which sounded like Queen's Freddie Mercury channeling Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. Label that one no fun:(

Maybe that tune will be scratched from the set list after the Grammys, when the band's tour heads to Japan, Australia and Europe. The trio, augmented by three players, had been rehearsing for five days at Prince's Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen. Singer Nate Ruess and guitarist Jack Antonoff explained to the 5,559 fans in St. Paul that those five days were the longest they've been in any one city since the song "We Are Young" took off in late 2011 after it was performed during an episode of "Glee." So fun. jokingly said they considered Wednesday a "hometown" gig.

Ruess, 30, was a commanding presence with his strong, soaring voice and yacht-club casual blazer and white slacks. Plus, his clear joy playing with Antonoff and keyboardist Andrew Dost (whom he hugged and kissed during one number) was obvious. But what needed a little work was the conception of the show.

The first two numbers essentially found fun. performing in the dark, behind a scrim that had fun geometric shapes projected on it. Sorry, when a show opens, the fans want to see the faces of the stars. Similarly, when fun. performed "We Are Young," the musicians were again in the dark, with the stage illuminated chiefly by images of giant flames (the refrain goes: "So let's set the world on fire") dancing across video screens. Nonetheless, the entire crowd was singing along to this anthem that sonically suggests a modern-day "Bohemian Rhapsody."

In the end, it was 85 minutes of fun -- no matter the punctuation.

set list: www.startribune.com/artcetera Twitter: @jonbream • 612-673-1719

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