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Photos: Fun is more fun pop than indie at Boulevard Pool

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Denise Truscello/WireImage/DeniseTruscello.net

Fun (often stylized as fun.), with frontman Nate Ruess, performs at Boulevard Pool in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012.

By Jack Houston

Nate Ruess stood center stage and glanced up at the live video feed of himself on the marquee. Plenty of frontmen would kill to have themselves reflected back on such a scale, but Ruess was not pleased.

“I might as well untuck my shirt,” he said, doing just that. “Oh, these love handles have never been so massive.”

The 30-year-old Ruess, lead singer of the indie pop band Fun (often stylized as fun.), doesn’t need to be projected on a giant LED screen in the middle of the Strip to demonstrate how big he’s become. On Thursday night, the 3,500 fans who packed the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Boulevard Pool were proof positive that Ruess and his bandmates are certainly more pop than indie these days.

Fun Performs at Boulevard Pool

Fun. frontman Nate Ruess performs at the Cosmopolitan's Boulevard Pool on August 16. Launch slideshow »

Opening with “One Foot,” the slender Ruess -- whose sides will never be considered love handles, in this or any other universe -- led the band through a 14-song set that leaned almost exclusively on their most recent release “Some Nights” and their debut, “Aim and Ignite.”

Ruess’s theatrical compositions -- think Freddie Mercury for the social media age -- are something of an anomaly in the pop landscape, and even a fairly conventional song like “Walking the Dog” (which drew cheers of recognition thanks to its placement in an Expedia.com commercial) sounds a little out of time as a result of Ruess’s yelping, octave-defying range.

Those high notes were present and accounted for at just about every turn, from the coda of “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)” to the celebratory “All the Pretty Girls,” two set highlights from “Aim and Ignite.”

Fun (often stylized as fun.), with frontman Nate Ruess, performs at Boulevard Pool in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012.

Fun (often stylized as fun.), with frontman Nate Ruess, performs at Boulevard Pool in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012.

A brief instrumental intro of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” preceded a hyperactive version of “Barlights” that had the audience clapping along and found Ruess scanning the skyline for in-song banter (“We’re going farther into space than the Luxor light” and “We want to make sure that everybody walking by the motherf—ing Flamingo knows what we’re talking about”).

As Fun has matured, their themes have become more universal, their lyrics turned into rallying cries. Cases in point: “It Gets Better,” which shares its name, if not necessarily its content, with a campaign to encourage LGBT youth, and “We Are Young,” the career-making No. 1 hit that has amassed digital downloads of more than 5 million. What begins with the recounting of a drunken night out evolves into an anthem of booze-soaked redemption and defiance in the face of reality. “Tonight,” Ruess sings, presumably every night, “we are young.”

By the time Fun reached the finish line, there was no question what was coming next: “Some Nights,” their current single and perhaps their most obvious (and most successful) homage to Mercury and Queen. “Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck,” Ruess sings in the opening verse. After performing in front of what he dubiously called “the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to,” there were plenty of things he could cash in; bad luck, however, was not one of them.

Thursday night’s set list: “One Foot,” “Walking the Dog,” “Why Am I the One,” “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be),” “It Gets Better,” “Carry On,” “The Gambler,” “All Alone,” “All the Pretty Girls,” “Barlights,” “We Are Young” and “Take Your Time.” Encore: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (Rolling Stones cover) and “Some Nights.”

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