“Hello, I am Nate Ruess… I’m so fucking excited to be here tonight… All I want you guys to do is have the best fucking time,” the 33-year-old Fun. front man told the sold out crowd on June 24th at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles. On this particular night, instead of having his familiar bandmates, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost, behind him, Nate Ruess took the stage as a solo artist with the Romantics backing him. With Ruess’ first solo album having been released just over a week before his record release show, there was no surprise in his euphoria throughout the night, with constant exclaiming of how “fucking amazing” the night was.
Although many are familiar with Nate’s music with Fun., Ruess’ road to success started well before the band’s song “We Are Young,” featuring Janelle Monae, went to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 in March, 2012. In 2001, Ruess formed The Format with Sam Means, whom had been his bandmate in Nevergonnascore. After some mild success with two albums, “Interventions + Lullabies” and “Dog Problems,” the band called it quits in 2008. Immediately afterwards, he joined Dost of Anathallo and Antonoff of Steel Train to form Fun. In February of this year, the group announced on their Facebook page, “Fun. is not breaking up,” but that they would be taking time to work on their own projects. “Grand Romantic,” is Ruess’ answer to that time off.
Ruess’ enthusiasm was apparent not only in his words between songs, but he was jumping around from the moment he stepped foot on stage until his second encore. The show opened with “Great Big Storm,” which could easily have been part of the follow up to Fun’s “Some Nights.” No surprise there, producers Jeff Bhasker and Emile Haynie also worked with Fun to create their bombastic sound.
Ruess’ opening showed off his penchant for dramatics, allowing his grandiose voice to take charge. The thing with Fun’s sound, and now Ruess’ solo venture, is that it’s all about drama- drama that you either love or hate, and we just happen to love it.
Ruess’ abruptly slowed things down with one of his few ballads “Take It Back” –a soulful track that features Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on guitar in the album. To keep the overall energy of the night up, Reuss followed up with “You Light My Fire” –which, in case you were wondering, was not a The Doors cover, but an upbeat Hall & Oates-esque tune. When Ruess played Fun’s “Carry On,” it was easy to see that fans in the crowd have been following him from band to band.
Ruess sprinkled songs from both his past bands into the setlist, including the popular “We Are Young,” as well as “Oceans,” and “She Doesn’t Get it,” by The Format. All songs were received equally as well by the adoring crowd that sang along to every word Ruess belted out.
All of Ruess’ music has the same fundamental quality that keeps his audience’s attention- his voice at the center of it all, while also allowing himself to be thrown completely into the music, with his personal, detailed lyrics that can be nothing but sincere. The human nature Ruess sings about in his songs, like “Nothing Without Love,” make it almost impossible not to relate to him. In fact, Ruess revealed to Rolling Stone before “Grand Romantic,” was released that the song was originally supposed to be on Fun’s album. After starting a relationship with designer Charlotte Ronson, the lyrics finally came to him. He told the publication, “You get a little selfish about the songs that you write, and it’s really hard to do that in a group setting, where there are two other people, and you have to think about everybody else’s feelings,” which explains his break from Fun.
Ruess intended to end the night with “Harsh Light,” a song about self acceptance, that totally lends itself to sing alongs, followed by “AhHa,” arguably the albums biggest, most dramatic song featuring Ruess’ cackle and Queen-like vocals. But, the crowd would not let him get off the stage, Ruess came back for two encores, Fun’s “Some Nights” as well as a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.”
One things for sure, with no disrespect to Dost and Antonoff, Ruess knows how to carry a show and own an audience without help from his bandmates.
1. Grand Romantic Intro
2. Great Big Storm
3. Take It Back
4. You Light My Fire
5. Carry On (Fun)
6. Let’s Go Crazy (Prince cover)
7. Oceans (The Format)
8. What This World is Coming To
9. Nothing Without Love
10. Just Give Me a Reason
11. She Doesn’t Get It (the Format)
12. We Are Young (Fun)
13. Harsh Light
15. Some Nights (Fun).
16. Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen cover)