Last Night: fun. at Bayou Music Center
How long has it been since America's young people have had something to be optimistic about besides the music on the radio? The '80s?
That must be the guiding principle behind newly crowned Grammy Best New Artist winners fun., who played to a full Bayou Music Center the night before Valentine's Day. Thanks to the inescapable singles "We Are Young" and "Some Nights," the NYC band has updated the angst-ridden, word-spewing Tri-State pop-rock of Billy Joel and Paul Simon for the social-media generation, and earned a few critics who think their wide-eyed, heart-on-sleeve music beggars belief.
But if you can look beyond the glittering, grandiose melodies crafted by singer Nate Reuss, guitarist Jack Antonoff and keyboardist Andrew Dost's crew -- admittedly, that can be almost impossible -- you'll notice that fun., damn their annoyingly stylized name, does not seem to be having very much fun at all.
The group's catalog (two albums strong) is rife with loneliness, abandonment and rejection, and a leading theme of even their biggest hits is employing nightlife as a distraction from an emotional core of desolation. As Reuss puts it in "All Alright," "I got nothing left inside my chest." Party!
And so Wednesday, fun. opened with the typically theatrical "Out On the Town," wherein Reuss reflects on causing a scene outside a lover's window and bemoans, "there's no one to keep me warm." Later came the equally despondent "All Alone," and the relatively optimistic "At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)."
A few, say, "It Gets Better," seemed expressly written as chin-up affirmations, but song after song brought on the urge to run up and give everyone in the band a big hug. This was before the last song of the encore, "Stars," an abject cousin to Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (which shares producer Jeff Bhasker with fun.'s breakthrough Some Nights), which somehow managed to be both completely processed and wholly affecting.
Of course, some 3,000 people didn't come downtown to be depressed when they could just as well do that at home. That's where fun.'s (hyper)melodies come in - great, Queen-size bohemian rhapsodies like "Barlight," the New Wave-y "It Gets Better" and "All the Pretty Girls," which will forever stamp them in my memory as the Bay City Rollers of the early '10s. Or at least until they make another record or two.