SIOUX CITY | It took two songs and three chords for Nate Ruess to put the fun. in his Orpheum Theatre concert Monday night.
Serving up his band’s “Carry On,” the two-time Grammy winner had the audience well in hand and could offer just about anything – including a Prince cover of “Let’s Go Crazy” – and get a strong reaction.
“I’m from Iowa,” the 33-year-old singer said before the crowd roared once more. “This feels fantastic.”
While the fun. songs probably brought the faithful in (Ruess is now on a solo tour to support his new CD “Grand Romantic”), the man’s energy and deep catalog of pulsating love and breakup songs kept them up and out of their seats.
Opening with “Great Big Storm,” one of the singles off “Grand Romantic,” he proved he hasn’t strayed too far from that fun. sound. Indeed, much of his music had thumping drums and high-pitched lead lines.
Ruess’ voice, though, gave all of it the necessary personality. Even The Format songs had that distinctive wail.
Backed by five equally energetic band members, he had the ability to make unheard songs sound comfortable.
“Grand Romantic’s” “Nothing Without Love” veered the farthest away from those fun. vibes and, still, it got a good response.
His duet with Pink, “Just Give Me a Reason,” sounded quite good, too, even though he did both parts (and hit the oh-so-high notes). He segued into Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and found its Ruess roots, too.
The night, though, hinged on his ability to dance to the songs that brought him. He didn’t disappoint.
Able to go it alone? Of course. But as much as Ruess may want to create another identity, there’ll always be a fun. lurking.
Meanwhile, a backdrop with a woman diving into a pool was an apt image for opener Saint Motel’s set.
Like the kind of music you’d hear at an outdoor party, the six-man group’s turn was full of bouncy, infectious chords that often belied the lyrics they were supporting. The seemingly benign “Puzzle Pieces” talked about plastic surgery, “Cold Cold Man” reassured the listener “the only bed worth sleeping’s the one right next to you.”
Led by a rail-thin A/J Jackson, Saint Motel had a big, instrumental sound for music that seemed airy and familiar. A trumpet and saxophone added heft; Jackson’s willingness to dance with abandon kept everything within reach.
The songs wore well, even though “Daydream/Wetdream/Nightmare” could have used a little more curing. Jackson repeatedly invited the audience to join his dance party, but few ventured in.
In a different setting, the results might have been different, too. Saint Motel’s music was appealing and, the crowd be damned, Jackson worked hard to get a reaction.
His “Benny Goodman,” above all, was a memorable song done well.
A fit for Nate Ruess? Perhaps. But if the headliner covered some of Saint Motel’s songs they’d have a hardcore beat, too.