fun., Of Monsters and Men, Churchill at the 1stBank Center, 12/14/12 (photos, review)

Going into the big show at 1stBank Center on Thursday – which was the biggest headlining date fun. has ever played – I was genuinely excited.

As a critic, seeing the band for the first time. As a fan, who had only recently connected with its debut “Some Nights” (released in February) in the last three or four months. As a lover of melodic music, who was psyched to hear singer Nate Ruess’ voice in a live arena.

But as we walked out of the small suburban arena after a thoroughly energetic concert by Ruess and his bandmates, I had to admit it: “They’re not a great band. Yet.”


The fun. set on Thursday had all the moments it had to have. “Some Nights” was nothing shy of fantastic, with its Queen-lite harmonies and its unbridled joy in storytelling. “We Are Young” transcended the fact that radio has completely played the song out. It didn’t matter if you’d heard the song so many times you wanted to slap the music directors who decided it was a good idea to play it once every two hours – not on Thursday. When fun. let into the anthem, you sang along – everyone did – and the communal experience was potent and real.

But those are the singles. How else did they do?

The ballad “Carry On” was a triumph, proof that Ruess’ voice is the real deal – crystalline and honest. “Why Am I the One” worked similarly, with the entire crowd singing along with the familiar chorus.

The band’s hooks are built for arenas. That said, they still have some growing to do.

“All the Pretty Girls” isn’t a great song, and the live take didn’t help things at all. “It Gets Better” was a low point for the set, especially since the song doesn’t meet the rest of the record stylistically. And sure, the record utilizes an obnoxious Auto-Tune every once in a while. But that doesn’t mean Ruess can get away with that in the live show.

The band was good with banter, shouting out to its bass player who is “basically from Colorado,” according to Ruess, and calling out CU-Boulder’s old rock bar Club 156. Ruess also thanked “the radio station,” a mildly funny, perfectly vague moment, given that it was Channel 93.3’s big holiday show – and had he forgotten the name of “the radio station.” He could have turned around and looked at the giant banner behind him.

Ruess needs to bring out some new covers. A note-for-note take on the Counting Crows’ “A Long December” lulled a mid-set spot, and a stilted take on the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” followed “We Are Young” in the encore. Neither was great, but dare I say the Stones song worked better than the Adam Duritz-penned ballad.

Indie group Of Monsters and Men opened the show with an amiable if samey set from their breakout record “My Head is an Animal.” The fans were there for the horn-led “Little Talks,” which came late in the set, but a few other songs jumped from the stage, including “Mountain Song” and “Six Weeks.”

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and editor at The Denver Post.