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It could’ve just been a fun. show Saturday night at the Fillmore Detroit, and it was. But the sold-out crowd got more than a flashy good time.
The big happy party that the trio and their band threw – a high-spirited show with beaming rainbow lights, endless energy from frontman Nate Ruess and songs from their infectiously giddy chart beast “Some Nights” – also served as a soap box for their continued efforts as gay rights activists (check out our in-depth interview here).
“Fight for equal rights,” Ruess declared near the end of their 80-minute show, driving concertgoers to the front lobby where they could support the Ruth Ellis Center and the band’s Ally Coalition. Formed to create awareness of LGBT issues, volunteers from the area manned the donation table where people held up ally signs to demonstrate advocacy for gay issues. It was cool to see so many LGBT-affirming people – young people, especially – interested in standing up for, and sometimes with, their friends.
Acceptance and unification was a running theme of the show, actually. Everything about their largest-to-date Detroit stop, down to the performances of two of their biggest singles “We Are Young” and “Carry On,” was rooted in liberation – liberation from conceit, from heartache, from inequality. fun.’s not just fun; they’re inspiring.
Now, I’ll be honest: I didn’t completely warm up to “Some Nights,” a pretty solid album but definitely far from groundbreaking. I still think it’s slightly forgettable and, in some parts, mind-numbingly repetitive.
Not live, however. There’s a charm about Ruess, who has the swaggering star-power of a frontman but also manages to pull off likable like he’s some kind of deity leading people to a place of love and compassion. Joined by guitarist Jack Antonoff and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dost, a Detroit native who Ruess mentioned still has a place in Royal Oak (they all wore Pistons jerseys during the encore as a cool nod to his hometown), the three guys know how to give sparkling life to the shoddiest of songs. Nearly every one of them sounded like a hit that night, but no more than “Why Am I The One,” a highlight that, done live, really embellished the flamboyant Queen sound already apparent on the album cut.
Most of the set list was, for obvious reasons, spent on “Some Nights,” up for an impressive six Grammys, but the band didn’t ignore their previous album, “Aim & Ignite.” It didn’t matter that most of the shiny happy people weren’t familiar with the songs from their debut. You couldn’t help but feel a part of something special, and something fun.