For some artists, a performance is about self-expression, a way to reveal themselves in a creative fashion. Nothing wrong with that – that approach has given us great art. But for some musicians, a show is all about that distinctive bond with the audience, the magnificent meld of action and reaction that creates a unique experience for band and crowd.
Fun. reveled in that bond during their debut Austin City Limits taping. The band enjoyed a devoted fanbase even before they scored Grammys and number one hits with their LP Some Nights, and their widespread success meant a bigger, more enthusiastic crowd than ever before. The trio and their backing musicians used the marching “One Foot” and the piano popping “All Alone” to prime the pump, so when singer Nate Ruess engaged the audience in some call-and-response lessons before the very Queen-like “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be),” they were ready. But the group teased a bit more with the rocking “All the Pretty Girls,” before bringing the crowd in for “Barlights,” Ruess exhorting the people to join in on the song’s cathartic chorus of “I feel alive!”
“Carry On” brought the audience completely into the fold, as it sang along without prompting to one of fun.’s best-known anthems. “The Gambler,” Ruess’s tender ode to his parents’ relationship, provided a brief respite, but with “We Are Young,” fun.’s Grammy-winning number one hit, the place exploded. Crowd and band became one, as the former sang along with every word, sometimes louder than the band itself. A cover of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” kept the energy level high, and the encore of “Some Nights” revived the audience singalong, as they provided the massed choral vocals from the recording with the energy of Ruess himself. “Stars” concluded the show with more singing during the bridge, providing a gentle comedown like a cup of coffee after an amazing dessert.
The exuberance came as much from the band’s excitement at being with us as from its rapport with the crowd. “We’re on a stage right now that means the most for us to be here,” remarked guitarist Jack Antonoff. “This is a special, special evening for us,” enthused Ruess. “This is a dream come true – thank you so much for being with us.” We feel it’s safe to say it was a special night for Austin City Limits as well. We can’t wait for everybody to see this episode – check your local listings this fall!