Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fitz and the Tantrums? Splendid!

First order of business: have you read my last post on Charitable Giving 2013?  Tell me where to give my money!

Now, on to this ridiculously long love letter to the band I saw last night.

I first heard about Fitz & the Tantrums back in April when I saw this mention of them on Hello Giggles.  I immediately purchased the first album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, based on the iTunes clips of the songs.  I also pre-ordered their sophomore album, More Than Just A Dream, that was set to come out a few weeks later.  

Image via

Lead singer (and band namesake) Michael Fitzpatrick has said in interviews that the band is heavily influenced by the classic soul music that was produced in the 1960's, specifically at Motown and Stax.  That was evident to me from my first listen.  The opening vamp on the second track, "Dear Mr. President" sounds like it could be the opening of an Aretha Franklin song.  I think that's a large part of why I like Fitz & the Tantrums so much - it has the edge of new rock and pop music paired with the comfortable familiarity of decades old soul music.  The marriage of the two styles works so well for this band, and I feel like it's a style that isn't represented as much in current music.

The band also differs from many current rock bands in that there is no guitarist.  James King plays guitar on a few tracks, but more often than not, he's manning the keyboard or wailing on bari sax (he even plays flute on a few tracks!).  All of the musicians in the band are great, but it's no secret that there is real power in the combination of lead singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs.  Their voices mingle so well together, and by having both a male and a female lead singer, it opens up a lot of lyrical choices.  They can sing about love and heartbreak, and it's like the audience is watching an actual couple sing their feelings.  The chemistry the two have on stage is so fantastic that a lot of people actually think the two are a couple.  (They aren't - Fitzpatrick's girlfriend gave birth to their son while he was on tour in September.)  The strong chemistry isn't only seen on stage; it can also be heard in their voices.

Both albums have been in heavy rotation on my playlists since then, so when I saw that the band was coming to Assembly Hall (sigh... State Farm Center) in November, I was thrilled.  LP Stacey and I bought tickets weeks in advance.  The Bright Futures Tour was co-headlined by Capital Cities and Fitz & the Tantrums.  They tapped fellow LA musicians, Beat Club, to open for them each night.

Beat Club is a band that is clearly wet behind the ears.  The music was more electro-pop than I prefer, but it wasn't wholly unpleasant to listen to.  I was not a fan of their lead singer and his unnecessarily foul mouth.  As a fellow potty mouth, it's not that he was dropping f-bombs that bothered me.  It's more that it felt forced, like he was trying to be edgy.  It also seemed to be the only adjective he knew, and he applied it liberally between each song.  Lame.  However, I did think it was kind of adorable that the drummer was wearing a Fitz & the Tantrums shirt.

It's hard to see, but trust me, it's there.
Following the Beat Club set, Capital Cities took the stage.  Honestly, I hadn't really listened to Capital Cities till last night.  Of course I do hear "Safe and Sound" on the radio about a million times a day.  I did try to familiarize myself with their album, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, over the week.  I didn't dislike the music, but I think my excitement over Fitz was clouding my honest judgement of the music.

Capital Cities put on a thoroughly enjoyable set.  They have great energy, catchy hooks, and my favorite (of course) - a trumpet player!

Okay, so his moves were kind of cheesy, but he was still a great horn player.  And the crowd loved him.  At one point he swapped his trumpet for a purple pBone, which also went over well with the crowd.  They unsurprisingly closed with "Safe and Sound", and the crowd went wild.  It seemed like the song would never end, and that was okay, because we were all having a fantastic time.  We were safe and sound.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy the Capital Cities set as much as I did.  But it was so lively and energetic, and just plain fun.  I may not have known many of the songs before the concert, but I woke up with them in my head this morning.  Catchy jingle writing jerks.  I decided that Capital Cities may be less of a "listen at work" kind of band and more of a "bathroom/kitchen dance party" kind of band.  And I'm okay with that.

At long last, the house lights went back down, the LED heart lit up, and Fitz & the Tantrums took the stage!

They opened the set with "Keepin' Our Eyes Out" from their second album.  They followed that up with "Don't Gotta Work it Out" from Pickin' Up the Pieces.  The whole set was a nice mix of songs from each album, which was great.  Because let's be honest, when you go to a show, and the band only plays songs from the new album without honoring its own past, it's disappointing.  

The middle of the set had lots of energy, sandwiching "Breakin' the Chains of Love" between "Break the Walls" and one of my favorites, "Spark". 

One of the strangest and most enjoyable moments of the show for me was the cover of the Eurhythmics' "Sweet Dreams".  I feel like even Annie Lennox didn't have as much fun performing this song in concert as the Tantrums have.

During the second half of the set, they played "Out of My League" which has been getting regular air play for the last couple months.  It even made it to the top of the Billboard charts in September.  

They played some of their slower tunes after that, but they closed the show with "L.O.V." which was a total blast.  The band vamped on the ending for quite a while.  They even brought Capital Cities trumpet player, Spencer Ludwig, out to improvise with James King on saxophone.  The best descriptor for the end of the show would be raucous.  The crowd was going wild, everyone was dancing, and the band was clearly having a great time.

Despite the fact that the show was not as well attended as it could have been, the audience was deafening at the end of the show.  The band came back out to perform a two-song encore.  First they played MoneyGrabber from their first album.

They closed the show for realsies with uber-catchy tune, "The Walker" from More Than Just a Dream...

 complete with confetti cannons.

I just had such a great time at this show.  Sure, my ears were still ringing when I went to sleep, my body physically aches from dancing so much today, and getting out of bed this morning was nearly impossible.  But it was all totally worth it.  I enjoyed the show so much that I looked at the rest of the tour schedule today to see if I could make it to another show.  Sadly the only two shows that are remotely near enough are both sold out.

I've been really lucky to see some really excellent shows this year, and this was most certainly one of them.

Oh yeah! You also might recognize some of the Fitz & the Tantrums songs from various commercials and TV shows.  I made a playlist on YouTube of all the commercials I could find.  Grey's Anatomy also featured the band three times: "Dear Mr. President" in season 8, episode 4; "Spark" in season 9, episode 19, and "The End" in season 10, episode 5.

Seriously give this band a listen.  They make me super happy.

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