At Ambleside Park on Saturday, August 31
Fame is fickle, but here's the good news for fun singer Nate Ruess: if his band eventually falls out of favour with pop-radio listeners, he's got a bright future ahead of him on Broadway. This is judging by fun's headline appearance at West Vancouver's Ambleside Park, where the big-voiced frontman thrilled the crowd with Andrew Lloyd Webber–worthy levels of drama and an omnipresent toothy grin.
His energetic performance was the highlight of several hours' worth of music, during which time concertgoers basked in the sunshine near the shores of Ambleside Beach.
The festivities kicked off at 4:45 p.m. with an opening performance from local outfit Gold & Youth. As the earlybirds filed in, the four-piece played a selection of '80s-tinged post-punk tunes from this year's debut LP, Beyond Wilderness, and these were tight and well-executed.
As fans lounged on blankets on the lawn, the Mowgli's—awkward apostrophe and all—reinforced the summery atmosphere with their celebratory brand of folk-rock. Practically every song swelled to a rollicking crescendo of clap-along rhythms and group-hollered hooks. These formulaic anthems strongly resembled contemporaries like Of Monsters and Men and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and this meant that the eight-piece's sound quickly grew stale.
The audience was a generation-spanning bunch that ranged from families with toddlers to gaggles of teenagers, and many of the grown-ups spent portions of the evening in the beer garden at the back of the venue. The sprawling field was filling up by the time Tegan and Sara arrived at the front, and the fans leaped to their feet as the large on-stage screens came to life.
Throughout the hourlong set, the Quin sisters switched between synth-filled pop cuts from this year's Heartthrob and folksy older material. This was a homecoming gig for the Vancouver-based Tegan, and she confessed that she had broken out in hives earlier in the day. This prompted Sara to jokingly instruct the on-stage cameramen, "Please don't film Tegan."
The twins' on-stage rapport was charming and occasionally hilarious, especially when Tegan's thank-you to the headliners turned into a rambling aside about New Kids on the Block, and she observed, "They're aging gracefully. They look good."
They eventually capped things off with the single "Closer", which proved to be a fan favourite, inspiring cheers of recognition and enthusiastic dancing.
The sun had sunk behind the horizon by the time fun arrived on stage. The trio appeared in tuxedos and bow ties to sing the overture "Some Nights (Intro)", which blended delicate piano plinks with Queen-style vocal harmonies and sampled harps and strings.
The stage lights went down and, after a break of what seemed like only seconds, Ruess re-emerged wearing a Toronto Raptors jersey with a loose-fitting white sport jacket over top. The three-piece was joined by three extra backing players, and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dost grabbed a flugelhorn for the pep rally-flavoured "One Foot".
This was followed by a number of similarly triumphant cuts from 2012's Some Nights, including the hip-hop–tinged "All Alone" and the power-pop banger "It Gets Better". At the back of the stage, the video screen displayed live footage, bright colours, and some CGI graphics.
Six-stringer Jack Antonoff became increasingly animated as the set wore on, and this was particularly apparent during "Barlights" from 2009's Aim and Ignite; following a chorus punctuated by a blast of white confetti, he scaled the large equipment cases at the side of the stage in order to dramatically fling his guitar down to the ground.
But of course, the true star of the show was Ruess. He utilized every inch of the stage, charismatically prancing around his bandmates while wailing as if attempting to reach the highest note possible. Incredibly, he almost always remained impeccably in-tune. At one point, he led an a cappella call-and-response sing-along, which elicited laughter from onlookers who were unable to keep up with his vocal gymnastics.
It was impossible not to be swept up by his optimistic demeanour as he repeatedly gushed about the idyllic evening and thanked Vancouver while joking "Does anyone call it ‘the 'Couv?‘" To this, Antonoff deadpanned "The problem with ‘the 'Couv' is that it sounds like a part of the body aliens do sex in."
Following a faithful cover of the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want", fun earned the loudest cheers of the night with their hit "We Are Young". Soon after, it closed the show with soaring renditions of "Some Nights" and "Stars". The latter track began with a cinematic guitar intro that built up, of course, to a cloud-scraping crescendo of canned strings, Auto-Tuned crooning, and audience arm-waving.
As this finale wound down, Ruess promised to return to Vancouver during the band's next album cycle and added, "We're all going to call it 'the Couv'."
So long as fun keeps delivering shows as vibrant as this one, Ruess can call it whatever he likes.