Concert Reviews

Last Night: Fitz & The Tantrums at the House of Blues' Cambridge Room

Fitz & The Tantrums
House of Blues' Cambridge Room
April 20, 2011

Better than:
a child throwing a tantrum in a public place.

As if the band's name alone didn't already imply it, Los Angeles' buzzing rock 'n' soul outfit, Fitz & The Tantrums, still riding high from a successful 2011 South by Southwest run that came on the heels of the band's strong 2010 debut, Picking Up The Pieces, showed why their rise has come so quickly.

See, it's all about energy with this band.

So, um, how does that make them any different from all the other soul revivalists out there these days? Good question.

In short, it doesn't make them any different. But no matter: Their nearly 70-minute offering -- their first ever in Dallas, it should be noted -- still proved a good time.

Led by Michael Fitzpatrick (hence Fitz) and complete with an engaging hype woman/co-vocalist in Noelle Scaggs, the six-piece (Fitzpatrick and Scaggs were backed by a brass player, an organist, a bassist and a drummer -- the Tantrums, no doubt), Fitz & The Tantrums' offerings scored before a sold-out (souled-out?) Cambridge Room at the House of Blues last night specifically because their offerings were formulaic.

It was all there: The call-and-response, the clap-alongs and the band's insistence that the crowd "shake their booties," all bolstered by the band's sax- and organ-infused set. But, somehow, rather than seem derivative, Fitz and The Tantrums' performance had a retro-, almost variety show-like appeal. Not because there were random adornments thrown in at every turn -- there weren't -- but because the performance was so crisp, well-rehearsed and professional.

Even in a market filled with bands doing the same thing, Fitz and The Tantrums stand out because they very much know what they're doing. And they know exactly what the audience expects of them.

In this case, that meant the hits -- of which, unfortunately for the band, formed only in 2008, there were only a handful. But when they came, they came big. "L.O.V." in particular shined, as did the title track to the band's full-length debut.

Credit Fitzpatrick for that; styled in the vein of a New Wave, Bowie acolyte rather than some sort of Raphael Saadiq or Mayer Hawthorne clone, the frontman was a non-stop force, constantly moving about the stage, either to clap, to dance or to push the aimed sexual tension between him and Scaggs to the forefront of the band's display.

The ploys, indeed, worked. Even the encore, which saw the saxophone player, who looked like he'd been stolen from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, return to the stage earliest to get the crowd cheering and hollering for the band's return.

Finally, when they did come out for their final three-song offering, there was an honest-to-goodness surprise: A cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," which came off quite well, thanks to Fitzpatrick's Annie Lennox-matching timbre.

But the surprise was short-lived. The band followed up that track with a song off their 2009-released EP, and ended the night with, of course, their biggest hit yet, their delightful romp, "Moneygrabber."

Not exactly a shocking choice. But, again, no matter.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
In case the above review doesn't make it clear, if anything, I'm mostly sick of soul revivalists at this point. Few do it as well as the originals. I still don't really think Fitz & The Tantrums do, but, hey, at least they made sure the crowd had a good time as they tried.

By The Way:
I almost saw a fight break out next to me because some tall dude slithered his way to the front of the stage, positioning himself directly in front of a group of shorter folk. They let him hear it, but he didn't really listen. It was awkward. The lesson here, as always, is that tall people kind of suck.

Random Note: This was a noticeably older crowd -- mostly thirtysomethings in attendance. Meanwhile, in the downstairs main room at the House of Blues, teen favorites (although lord knows why) Hollywood Undead performed. The visual disparities between attendees was insane.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman