Less than two years have passed since Fitz and the Tantrums released their only album, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” but the band is already headlining shows in large venues.
The heat affected the band’s fashion. Instead of the suits, ties and semi-formal period wear for which it has become known, it pulled out the casual summer wardrobe. That didn’t affect the vibe. For about 75 minutes, Michael Fitzpatrick and his five-piece band kept their audience in the throes of a sultry, soulful groove.
Thursday’s setlist didn’t vary much from last year’s. They opened with “Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” a gust of funky, ‘70s soul that sounds like a Hall & Oates song. They followed that with something a bit mellower, “Winds of Change,” then shifted into a higher gear with the honey-sweet “Pickin’ Up the Pieces.” That one included some mellifluous flute runs by James King, who also ruled on the saxophone all night, and prompted the first of many sing-alongs. It also gave Noelle Scaggs her first big moment in the spotlight. Calling her a backup singer would be a slight. She delivers as much personality and fire as the animated Fitzpatrick, if not more. All night, like a hip-hop MC, she stoked the crowd into singing-along, waving arms and staying engaged. She’s more than just a cheerleader; she is also a dynamic vocalist, whether laying down harmonies or taking over the lead. He is an ideal frontman: comfortably extroverted but not overbearing.
Most of the crowd was up front, where the sound was much clearer than it was in back. All those bodies made it much warmer, too. But that didn’t stop most fans from at least bobbing and swaying hard or dancing like school just let out for the summer.
The setlist also included two covers: of the Raconteur’s “Steady As She Goes” and then the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”; both were given a heavy coat of the band’s signature mix of pop, soul, funk and R&B. They stick faithfully to that vibe but vary it enough to keep things interesting. The bluesy “Dear Mr. President” resembles ZZ Top’s “I Thank You”; “L.O.V” is a sweet blast of garage-pop/soul; and “Tighter” is a smoldering satiny-soul ballad that Luther Vandross could have owned.
There would be no cosmic, skyscraping moments this evening, even during “MoneyGrabber,” which ignited another sing-along. Rather, it was the perfect confluence of polished song-craft and high-end performance from a fast-rising band that looks poised to be in it for the long haul
| Timothy Finn, The Star