Fitz and the Tantrums
April 2, 2011
Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa
Friday night's Fitz and the Tantrums show had been sold out for more than a month, and the bar was packed hours before the band made their way to the stage. The “surprise guests” turned out to be LA's favorite hip-shakin', toe-tappin' folk band He's My Brother She's My Sister–brother/sister singing duo Rob and Rachel Kolar, tap-dancing percussionist Lauren Brown, and Oliver “Sparkles” Newell on upright bass. They played a few songs off their latest EP, as well as some fantastic covers, including the Mamas and the Papas' “Straight Shooter” and the Velvet Underground's “What Goes On.”
We waited for over half an hour in between sets, and Detroit Bar somehow got even more crowded, with a couple of hundred sweaty, irate people pushing into one another to get even an inch closer to the stage. Around midnight, Fitz and the Tantrums showed up and played the sweatiest set of their career. “It's so hot in here the walls are sweating,” said Fitz with total accuracy.
Fitz and the Tatrums make what sounds like the sweet old soul music of the '60s, and they do it with such authenticity that when you leave their shows, you're not quite sure what decade you're living in. I knew from previous experience they put on a hell of a show, too–but considering the El Rey Theater is about a million times more pleasant as a venue for live music than the Detroit Bar, I was prepared to be disappointed last night. The disgusting mix of heat and sweat rising from the crammed-in crowd just encouraged the band to put on an even rowdier show.
Singers Fitz and Noelle Scaggs are both incredible, high-energy performers, and their complimentary duality is what makes Fitz and the Tantrums a great live act. They feed on each other, daring each other to sing louder and dance harder before they turn on the audience. Fitz is a handsome and sharply-dressed front man who by now has perfected the art of dancing in a well-tailored suit. Noelle wore a skintight, one-sleeved red dress with a wedge cut-out midway and insanely high rainbow-sequined heels. Trying to dance in shoes like that is more than a little crazy, but somehow Noelle evaded the possibility of breaking ankles and danced all night.
Their set list hadn't changed much since their last tour, but there's nothing wrong with that; the crucial difference is that this is their second time playing these songs on a string of sold-out shows–and they're all stronger for it. They opened with classics “Don't Gotta Work It Out,” “Winds of Change” and “Breakin' the Chains of Love” off their Dangerbird debut, Pickin' Up the Pieces. “Wake Up” is a swinging new song–though not so much if you caught them a few months ago at the El Rey, performed three days after it was written–and will hopefully make its way onto an official release. Naturally, the title track of the band's first and only record got the crowd screaming and dancing and begging for more.
Rather than chill out with a slow song after a straight half-hour of dancing, Fitz and the Tantrums just kept going with songs such as “Rich Girls” and “L.O.V.” that can force even the shyest person in the audience to start moving and singing along. Another highlight was “6 AM,” another song only a few months old that will hopefully be recorded and released soon. As with their El Rey show, Fitz and the Tantrums closed out with a fantastic cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)”–a song Fitz steps into so naturally you'd swear he wrote it. An all-around fantastic show.
Critic's Bias: Already saw them play a show, so I knew what I was getting into.
The Crowd: I have to say, it was pretty obnoxious for the most part. Everyone was pissed off about people being in their personal space, but you know what? Detroit Bar packed almost 300 people in that tiny space, and there is no other space to move into, so everyone should've just accepted it and calmed down a bit. Some people were really cool, though; special thanks to the guy in front with the glasses, who let me sneak in front of him to catch the end of the set.
Overheard In the Crowd: “It's soooooooo hot!” over and over again.
Random Notebook Dump: Fun, totally exhausting show.
1. Don't Gotta Work It Out
2. Winds of Change
3. Breakin' the Chains of Love
4. Wake Up
5. Pickin' Up the Pieces
6. Rich Girls
7. Mr. President
11. News 4 U
12. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (Eurythmics)
1. We Don't Need No Love Songs