Music Reviews — 16 June 2015
Nate Ruess of fun. Gets ‘Romantic’ at iHeartRadio Theater

Nate Ruess

A LocalBozo.com Concert Review
iHeartRadio Theater, New York, NY
June 15th, 2015

Concert Review: Nate Ruess at iHeartRadio Theater

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In a tune-up of sorts before Wednesday evening’s sold out show at New York City’s Webster Hall, Nate Ruess (frontman of fun. and The Format) and his band would host an hour long showcase Monday evening to be streamed live for fans around the world on iHeartRadio.com. The intimate performance in front of just a few hundred fortunate listeners would in fact be the group’s first assembled performance in North America, celebrating the release of Ruess’ solo debut “Grand Romantic” (released 6/16). Backed by a six piece collective known as The Band Romantic, the ten song set would unveil some of the new album alongside staples from the fun. catalog as well as a spirited cover song, all thrown in for good measure.

Despite being released as a solo record, “Grand Romantic” certainly sports many of the same big and bombastic Broadway-style tracks that fans might expect from a new fun. album, albeit with a more personalized skew. The first single- and show opener- “Nothing Without Love,” builds from a slow ballady type to a full on feel-good anthem as Ruess’ bandmates join in during the song’s progression. The catchy “Great Big Storm” is more of the same, especially in a live setting where the song’s collaboration of Ruess’ strong vocal chorus meshed with a full collection of musicians works even better than on the album itself. Though each song’s lyrics certainly seem more introspective, each seems to culminate with an uplifting release in traditional pop fashion.

Slightly slower tracks like “Take It Back” and “What This World Is Coming To” (which features Beck) are fine changes of pace, if not a bit lull-inducing given the raucous energy that fuels the remainder of Ruess’ live show. In that regard, the frontman is perhaps as zoned in as he’s ever been, often holding high-pitched notes for incredible lengths as the audience marvels at his chops. Between candid on-stage interview moments during the show’s first thirty minutes, Ruess whipped through outstanding renditions of familiar hits like “Carry On” and “Just Give Me a Reason,” which the singer handled masterfully despite the absence of P!nk by his side. Meanwhile, the surprise addition of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” was especially fitting for this set, resulting in many fans dancing around in place wherever ample standing room would allow.

Though long time fans may be wistful for the loss of Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost, Ruess’ new backing band both capably- and in many instances- admirably suit-up alongside the singer’s talents, with captivating guitar solos and soft piano balladry unleashed with each progressive song. Because of the show’s early start time (7pm ET) and due to the diminutive theater space, the audience didn’t let entirely loose during the course of the show, certainly no fault of the band’s- and certainly no indication of what’s likely to come during Wednesday night’s performance. But even the most stoic audience member managed to get lost in the likes of “Some Nights” and show closer “We Are Young,” which showcased Ruess’ electric ability to rally an audience around the familiar pop singles made famous by his unparalleled vocals. Though the new album may be a slight departure from the style of sound that Nate Ruess made famous, Monday night’s live show missed nary a beat despite having new pieces performing all around him.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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