Step right up for the grand romantic

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Music Monday post, I got the chance to see Nate Ruess’ live in Toronto, in support of his new solo album, Grand Romantic.


The opener was some dude with his keyboard, guitar, and laptop. I don’t recall him saying his name (plus the mics were definitely not loud enough), but according to Facebook, it was Wolf Saga, an indie/electronic/pop outfit from London (Ontario). He was decent, but wasn’t as energetic as I like my opening bands to be.

Nate came out at 9pm with the rest of the Band Romantic and launched right into it, kicking off with the “Grand Romantic Intro” while everyone settled on stage before officially opening with the super-summery-jam that is “Great Big Storm”. The set featured a lot of songs from the solo album – lead single “Nothing Without Love”, the danceable “You Light My Fire”, the excellent “AhHa”, even the very sad “It Only Gets Much Worse”, along with a couple of others.

But Nate didn’t ignore the bands most of his fan-base knew him from. He also played the three big fun. singles, “Carry On”, “We Are Young”, and ended the night with “Some Nights”.

Despite his own extensive catalogue, he also played two covers: Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, and a gorgeous piano version of the P!nk song he featured on, “Just Give Me A Reason”. He joked about it during the performance, but I think he really did “outstage” P!nk, effectively hitting all the high notes and just making the song his own.

Not forgetting his roots though, he played “She Doesn’t Get It” by The Format, his old band. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I was pretty darn stoked to hear it live. And, at the risk of sounding much older than I am, hearing that song took me straight back to my high school’s cafeteria, sitting with my then-best friend, sharing headphones and bopping along.

One of the great things about seeing Nate Ruess live (in whatever band) is that he sounds exactly the same in real life as he does recorded. Obviously, some songs have vocal effects put on them during the recording process, but for the most part, he sounds the same, which just proves how impressive his voice is. He also has this weird charming quality where I don’t actually find him attractive but I’m oddly mesmerized by him all the same (I think that’s called charisma). And he has an almost theatrical vibe when he’s onstage, which makes for an entertaining show. Highly recommended.

[I]f you want a hit you better call up Nate from fun.

Tonight, I’m going to see Nate Ruess, so I figured I’d talk about him a bit today in preparation.

nate ruess

I’ve been listening to Nate Ruess in some form or another for the past seven years or so. At first, in high school, my friend introduced me to The Format via their adorable song “Snails”.

Shortly thereafter, Nate left to form fun., and I sort of forgot about him until I saw fun. open for Panic! at the Disco on the Vices & Virtues tour in 2011.

Since then, I’ve seen fun. two other times – headlining shows in 2012 and 2013, plus last year I saw Bleachers, which is the side project belonging to fun.’s guitarist, Jack Antonoff (formerly of Steel Train, who I just started listening to).

And now, we’re in 2015 and Nate has released his first solo album, Grand Romantic!

Like Andrew McMahon, who is only recently getting the attention he deserves, I’m honestly surprised it’s taken so long for people to realize what an amazing musician Nate Ruess is – so few people have heard of The Format, but if you mention fun.’s major single, “We Are Young”, everyone’s heard it at least once. Nate Ruess has such an impressive voice – at times, he almost seems to channel Freddie Mercury, and I would pay a lot of money to hear him sing a Queen song. I’m looking forward to seeing him tonight – watch out for my review tomorrow!

Side note: the title of this post comes from a Paradise Fears cover (with an original rap verse) and it seemed fitting.

I wanna get better

Yesterday, I achieved a personal goal: Ro and I officially attended 30 concerts in 2014!! It’s times like these I wish I could capitalize numerals so that I could show you just how excited we were.

Our 30th concert of the year was Bleachers, the side-project of Jack Antonoff. Some of you may know him (like I did) as the guitarist from fun.; others from his previous band, Steel Train; and still others as Lena Dunham’s boyfriend. If you don’t know who he is, however…well, you’re missing out.


The opening band was Port Juvee from Calgary (Alberta). They had, according to my pal Jane, a bit of a “The Strokes” vibe, which was true. I found myself zoning out during their set though, so I can’t really give you a proper recap of what they sounded like. I know I was head-bopping at one point and trying to convince Ro to slow-dance with me during another song, but otherwise, I can’t tell you what they sounded like.

It’s entirely possible they played this, I just don’t remember. 

Bleachers went on at 9:30pm. They had just been in town (and by “just been in town”, I mean they played the Mod Club in August), but they were, of course, greeted warmly. I expected a bigger crowd, but it was a decent amount of people and it meant that we a) could sit on the balcony and then b) still have a good view when we gave up on the balcony and decided to stand downstairs.

Opening with “Wild Heart” was the best choice they could have made. It’s the opening track on their first album, 2014’s Strange Desires, so it really is perfect for setting the tone. The acoustics at the Phoenix are always on point and this was no exception: it might seem odd to say, but it was just the right volume, while still allowing that definitely bass-thumping-in-your-chest feeling that I love so much. The band also seemed to be playing just a teeny bit faster and more upbeat than on the album, but it worked really well live.

Because Bleachers only has the one album, they basically played the whole thing. Close to the encore, they played a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” and it was excellent. The crowd had already been shuffling around in some semblance of a dance before then, but it seemed like that was the song that really got everybody moving. They followed that up with “Rollercoaster”, which is one of my favourite Bleachers’ songs.

I also really liked that during “You’re Still a Mystery”, Jack took the time to introduce the other members of the band who each got a chance to (literally) sit in the spotlight and play a solo. It’s impressive that they were all able to keep a steady beat going in the background while Jack talked and the one guy (I can’t remember his name) who pulled out his saxophone did an amazing job. There was a mini guy-with-the-saxophone vs Jack-on-his-guitar duel and it was so much fun to watch.

Of course, the moment I had been waiting for came at the very end: “I Wanna Get Better”. This was the first single Bleachers released; it was the reason I said “Man, I need this album when it comes out”; and it was the reason I dragged Jane to HMV so that I could buy it the day it came out. It’s one of those songs where you just want to scream the lyrics out and lose yourself in the moment, where the words hold so much meaning that they can affect you no matter what kind of mood you’re in.

That’s why I’m standing on the overpass screaming at myself,”Hey, I wanna get better!”

Like I said above, if you’ve never listened to Bleachers, you’re missing out on some 80’s-inspired pop-rock – andwho doesn’t love the 80’s?

EDIT: Please check out my first collaborative review with my good pal Jane over on her website!