When Nate Ruess is involved, any show is guaranteed to be a spectacle.
On Saturday evening, fans at the Town Ballroom not only won over the former Fun. frontman, they made him openly declare that Buffalo was his new favorite city and was the site of the best show he’d played in the last year. By the end of the night, many an audience member lost their voice, but they still resounded with thunderous applause and raucous cheers anyway.
The night began with a local treat: a four-piece synth-pop group from Buffalo called Wild Things. These kids have talent, and their penchant for excellent hooks and charming humor spell future success. Keep an eye on them.
Then came Surfer Blood, a Florida quartet whose aesthetic and music is supremely charming. They blend equal parts Buddy Holly and Silversun Pickups, which was an unexpected joy to hear. The band's kitschy 1950s pastel guitars and guitar tones that sounded straight out of that same era mixed with modern flair and more humor was very welcome, but the crowd was all waiting for what was coming next.
When Ruess hit the stage, the response was enormous. Immediately he seemed smitten with the throng. After launching into the opener, “AhHa,” Ruess never let up. His charm and genuine love of the people there was evident, as his banter was some of the most honest and funny I’ve heard.
Ruess mostly focused on playing songs from his most recent solo album, “Grand Romantic.” Songs like “Nothing Without Love,” “What This World Is Coming To” and “Great Big Storm” all fed on Ruess' constant movement and unceasing energy.
He looked like a whirling dervish as he moved from side to side. That’s what separates live music from a live performance. It added so much to every song. And you couldn’t help but smile when he smiled in awe at how loud the crowd was by the finish.
Beyond the album songs, there were many surprises. There wasn't just one encore, but two encores, and Ruess pulled from all sides of the catalog. He played songs from his first band The Format, and performed the triple threat of Fun.’s biggest hits: “Carry On,” “Some Nights” and “We Are Young.” He also played his duet with Pink, “Just Give Me a Reason.”
All of these were stellar, but perhaps the most endearing moments of the night were his covers. Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” both lit up the crowd, especially the older members of the audience. No moment, however, could top Ruess speaking to the crowd about Buffalo and playing about half of the Goo Goo Dolls’ hit “Slide.” “I only slide…how’s it go again?” he asked the crowd.
Buffalo was more than willing to help him out, and not only was it a moment of pure pride, it was an honest gesture from a true showman.
Saturday night in Town Ballroom