All photos courtesy of Melissa Karlin, unless otherwise noted.
Of the many bands emerging out of Los Angeles, Fitz and The Tantrums are undoubtedly the most enticing. Few bands can (literally) revive a genre and cement it in the public consciousness, yet Fitz and The Tantrums have turned soul music — built on a heavy foundation of artists that made the genre popular in the ’60s and ’70s — into a viable outlet for today’s modern music-going crowd to once again enjoy. They provide a rush of energy through fat bass grooves, eclectic keyboard rhythms, wild and catchy drum beats, rousing wind instrumentation, and vibrato vocals, the same elements that made the genre so great to begin with, but without sounding dated in the least.
In essence, Fitz and The Tantrums know what’s up, and after touring last year in support of their Summer 2010 debut Pickin’ Up The Pieces, they were back in LA Saturday night for a 104.3 MYfm-hosted exclusive show at The Roxy to help kick off their next 2012 tour, flaunting all they had with fantastic live renditions, covers, and even new material.
First off, let me just say that The Roxy is a wonderfully personal venue for a Fitz and The Tantrums performance. The group has certainly had their fair share of showings in almost stadium-sized venues and at large festivals such as Lollapalooza, which have most likely brought in droves of fans, but seeing FATT play a set Saturday night back in their hometown on the same streets where they got their start provided that familial feeling of closeness. Not only were the acoustics swell, but with its generally smaller crowd size and closer stage proximity, the Roxy made Fitz’s homecoming feel like I was seeing the band perform at the venue for the first time. It felt nostalgic without even trying.
Speaking of which, the night was filled with lively renditions of songs in the vein of Motown. With colorful lights blazing, the 6-piece band kicked things off strong, filling the stage with physicality and movement while performing their hit singles “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” and “Breakin’ the Chains of Love.” They gave these tracks a favorable groove accompanied by arresting visuals that had the crowd (and this reviewer) swinging and jiving along. Blending the talented suaveness of acts like The Temptations with the virtuoso energy provided by Sly Stone or James Brown, Fitz and The Tantrums — made up of eccentric drummer John Wicks, funky bassist Joseph Karnes, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna, and wind instrumentalist James King — made sure that your toes were tapping and your head bobbing all night long.
But perhaps the most heat from the night’s performance emanated from feisty lead singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, who clearly brought down the house with their electric chemistry. Songs like “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” and “Wake Up” saw the duo get extra close, more so than you would have expected from their studio recordings. They played off each others’ moves to spice things up, and it was common throughout the night to see them touch.
The two even excelled in getting the crowd to participate. They effortlessly made contact with the audience, asking those around them to either sing along or clap their hands, and if someone wasn’t participating, they made note of it. It wasn’t like they were forcing anyone to do it, but the idea of collaboration and group participation is almost essential to making their soul music a fulfilling experience (as it should be, hence “soul”). This was an absolutely welcome gesture from Fitzpatrick and Scaggs, and they not only gave the crowd a chance to have fun, but they also had fun themselves.
“Love Sick Man!” and “6AM” were apparently new additions to Fitz and The Tantrums’ setlist, which had already included the entire track list from Pickin’ Up The Pieces. Whether or not the songs appear on the group’s next LP, they still continued the band’s style and strut, showcasing some pretty nice bass lines and lyrical constructions and picking up on the band’s previous influences while still maintaining FATT’s unique indie pop sensibility. Most surprisingly, the band also provided two very satisfying covers of The Raconteurs’ “Steady As She Goes” and The Eurythmics’ classic “Sweet Dreams,” which most of the crowd sang along to.
There simply was no stopping Fitz and The Tantrums from turning the night into a Hollywood party, and it was clear that both the band and the crowd reaped the benefits. Drummer Wicks even whipped out his camera phone to take a snapshot of the audience which, as you can see below, freely expressed just how much they enjoyed the evening.
Photo by John Wicks
Given the variety of acts coming out of Los Angeles today, Fitz and The Tantrums are a shining spot, as witnessed Saturday night at the highly appropriate Roxy Theatre on Sunset. They brought back home all of the charisma and energy from 2011 and provided a soul-tastic experience that I can truly say will shake up today’s music scene. The performance not only kicked off another year of concerts, but it also had the potential staying power to already become one of 2012’s most memorable concerts as well.
You can check out “Moneygrabber” below, which made my list of Top 20 Singles of 2011. Be sure to check out the rest of Fitz and The Tantrums’ most recent tour dates and be on the look out for any more news and info from their website and label, Dangerbird Records.
Fitz and The Tantrums Tour Dates
1/15 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
1/17 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory
1/19 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
1/20 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market
1/21 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market
1/24 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre
1/26 – San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom
1/28 – Stateline, NV @ Harrah’s Lake Tahoe