There are plenty of reasons Fun. would want to open Friday's sold-out Orpheum show with “Out on the Town.” For starters, there were the pealing guitar arpeggios and proclamatory drum pounding that set the anthemic tone of the night. But there was a line that singer Nate Ruess kept repeating toward the end that was maybe more important: “Open up your heart.” Despite the infuriatingly cutesy, copy-editor-defying way its name is formatted, there was almost nothing cynical about the band.
That’s a hard trick under the best of conditions in the modern musical landscape. For a band that relies heavily on both Queen-ly anthems and a distinct late-’70s pop sensibility that comes out most often in roller-rink keyboards, it’s practically a high-wire act. But there wasn’t a smirk in evidence during the fist-in-the-air shuffle of “Carry On,” the jackbooted march of joy that was “Some Nights,” or the Supertramp-like “All the Pretty Girls.” When Ruess jumped up and down and clapped in time — something he did quite often — it wasn’t an ironic commentary on enthusiasm. He meant it.
Another of Fun.’s go-to moves was particularly telling. At least a third of the songs featured a moment when everything fell away from Ruess’s voice except Andrew Dost’s piano, and the effect was of someone who’d let his guard down in full. Then that moment would pass and the band would snap back into arena-rock riffery, widescreen vocal harmonies, or, in the case of “Barlights,” guitarist Jack Anton-off bashing on the drums in tandem with drummer Will Noon in an extended midsection.
Those touches were often the only variations from a formula that was mined again and again. At times, the band was little more than OneRepublic with an extra hint of rock power. But even when it relied on that formula, Fun. never seemed the least bit calculated. Nor did it when “One Foot” folded in a flugelhorn-saxophone voluntary or “What the [expletive]” combined mambo piano, Springsteenian organ, and Brian May soloing. A cynic could probably have found something to love about Dost ending the band's show-closing cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by beating his piano with his keyboard. Then again, maybe he just liked the noise.
Opener Andrew McMahon, formerly of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate, picked up the torch of overearnest adult pop anthems that was most recently carried unabashedly by the Fray, and then forgotten.