It was clear who the star of the show was Saturday night at the Jack's Mannequin concert at Marquee Theatre -- Nate Ruess, formerly of local band The Format, currently with New York City-based fun. (possibly the worst band name ever.)
Fun. lived up to its name, entertaining the sold-out young crowd. Fun. is a little more rock n' roll than The Format but still has the same pop sensibilities at its core.
The crowd, made up of mostly high school and college-aged kids, sang along to every fun. song, as Ruess ran around onstage, getting the kids to clap and dance along.
He thanked the crowd between just about every song, none of which, sadly, were covers from his former band. Fun. has been known to play Format tracks, so it was really disappointing that the band didn't bust out a single Format song at this Tempe show.
They seemed to do just fine with their own material, though, off their debut album, Aim and Ignite. It was really impressive that the packed audience knew every song, allowing Ruess to take breathers during the set and hold out his mic.
Ruess announced his family was in the audience, including his parents, sister and grandmother, and the family must have been proud that his new band seems to be doing just as well as the old one.
Disappointingly, though, Ruess' vocals couldn't be heard as crystal clearly as when he performed with The Format. The rock side of the live band overpowered Ruess and made for a semi-chaotic scene on-stage. Maybe that's what some of the audience members preferred, but The Format was always impressive for their focus on the vocals. With fun., it's clear the band strives to amp up the guitars more.
By the time Andrew McMahon and his band Jack's Mannequin took the stage, some of the crowd had cleared out, making it obvious it was fun. who sold out the venue.
Jack's Mannequin's set was a little more subdued than fun.'s, just because that's the band's style, but McMahon played the rock star as best he could from behind the piano, standing up often while playing and doing his trademark jump-on-the-piano-and-bang-on-the-keys-with-his-feet thing. The crowd ate it up.
Surprisingly, Jack's set was heavy with songs from their 2005 album, Everything in Transit. The biggest songs of the night seemed to be the upbeat "Dark Blue" and "Bruised," which much of the crowd sang along to. McMahon also ran around the stage during the poppier tracks, while the rest of the time, he sat at the piano and sang from his two microphones.
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While McMahon's vocals were jumbled (even his banter between songs sounded mumbly), his instrument took center stage. The piano played a big part of every song and never got muffled by the rest of his band, which was refreshing and impressive. McMahon's skills on the instrument are excellent, and the audience got just as excited during his solos as they did while he was singing.
One of the most significant moments of the set was during the song "Bloodshot," off the band's 2008 album, The Glass Passenger. "You ready for some rock n' roll?!" McMahon shouted from the top of his piano, before jumping off, running around stage and launching into the song. He's not really rock n' roll, but the fans appreciated McMahon's efforts at energizing the crowd by abusing his piano.
The band only played for about an hour and 20 minutes, but the group got in a wide variety of songs from the band's repertoire. It would have been nicer to hear McMahon's vocals turned up higher, but watching him play the keys with his feet almost made up for it.