DALLAS Charisma cuts both ways for pop stars.
That much was evident Thursday night at a sweltering Gexa Energy Pavilion, as the Grammy-anointed fun. and the reinvigorated Tegan and Sara thrilled a nearly full house.
The night’s headliner and this year’s Best New Artist, fun. wielded its appeal like a cudgel, as frontman Nate Ruess exhorted the gathering to clap, cheer, sing and generally obey his every command. Far from sinister, the demands were delivered with a smile, and backed by his wondrous, elastic voice — one of pop music’s most thrilling, at the moment — it was easy to be swept up into the off-kilter grandeur of songs like Why Am I the One, Carry On or All Alone.
For fun., Thursday was the second trip through North Texas in less than a year and its third in the last two years ( they headlined the Edge’s annual Christmas shindig in December), and perhaps, the strenuous insistence on constant audience participation is merely burnout made manifest.
Much of the crowd seemed sluggish, merely because it was so ungodly hot, not because they’re any less of a fun. fan. The atmosphere was mostly sedate, although there were moments when the audience would be roused to scream at the top of its lungs.
Still, fun’s baroque anthems, full of sharp hooks and tricky time signatures, hold up well, despite near-constant airplay. The trio — Ruess, guitarist Jack Antonoff (who confused Tony Romo with Tony Robbins at one point) and Andrew Dost — was supplemented with three touring musicians, and backed by a relatively straightforward set design, reliant on LCD video screens and the occasional flurry of confetti.
“I’m gonna live forever,” howled Ruess, near the conclusion of Barlights. Well, maybe — but fun. has some ways to go before we can start talking about pop permanence. They’ve made a mark, but time will tell just how it deep it turns out to be.
The night’s strongest performance, however, took place before fun. ever set foot on stage. Canadian sister act Tegan and Sara, basking in the afterglow of mid-career reinvention, knocked out a 55-minute set full of tunes from this year’s superb LP Heartthrob.
The record’s fizzy intimacy was dissipated somewhat by the show’s necessary scale, but Tegan Quin’s disarming between-song banter helped bridge the gap. The pair’s glowing harmonies, backed up by a touring quartet, made cuts like I Was a Fool, Drove Me Wild, Shock to Your System and set-closing Closer shimmer like New Wave diamonds.
Most impressively, the singer-songwriters dipped into their back catalog, airing out staples like Walking with a Ghost and Back in Your Head, the spare starkness of which gave a glimpse of just how much Tegan and Sara have evolved over the last decade.
Rather than twist arms, Tegan and Sara were content to let the songs charm the audience for them, and were rewarded with a reception not often afforded to opening acts.