I’m a crier. You name it…it makes me cry. Dog dies in a movie? Waterworks. Little girls playing with their dads at the park? Pass the tissues. Old man eating alone at T.G.I.Fridays? Don’t even get me started. Rock and roll shows? I’m usually okay. That was until last night when Fitz & the Tantrums brought the house down (and me to tears) at Paradise Rock Club as part of WFNX and Amstel Light’s Alternatour.
If there was any doubt that Fitz & the Tantrums were about to blow up before last night…it’s certainly gone now. The completely gratis show had was set up on a first come, first serve basis and experienced an astonishing draw of concert hopefuls. The line from the club extended a block and a half (in Boston we have big blocks) full of people all hoping see the show but who wouldn’t even see the door. I feel a certain responsibility as a music fan to do my best to describe it for them now.
It was one of those shows. You know the ones. The ones that make you feel personally lucky for having been there. The ones that leave you lightheaded and shakey. The ones where you can’t tell who had more fun – the fans or the band. The best kind. FATT (what a horrible acronym…) have been lauded as ‘the band to watch’ time and time again since their debut album ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’ came out and I’d like to disagree. They’re without question the band to SEE. The Los Angeles indie-soul six-piece brought an energy to the small venue the likes of which I’ve never seen. We’re always told to ‘pace ourselves’…that ‘it’s a marathon and not a sprint’. Apparently, Fitz missed that memo and we happily paid the price. They kept the crowd dancing, clapping and screaming like nutcases from the openers: ‘We Don’t Gotta Work It Out’ and ‘Winds of Change’ to the hotly anticipated ‘Money Grabber’ encore. Michael Fitzpatrick (vocals and namesake) and Noelle Scaggs (vocals and tambourine) were constantly demanding action and returned the favor ten fold. The 16-song set featured tracks from not only their debut studio effort but also tracks from their first EP, some new stuff and a couple really fun covers.
Listening to their record, the sound is so big that it’s easy to forget all of the individual components that make up your favorite tracks but let me tell you…that is most definitely not the case in their live show. You almost don’t know who to pay attention to because all six of them are putting on remarkable performances. James King and Joe Karnes brought that infectious soul on sax/flute and bass (honestly. Who doesn’t love a good flute solo?). If there is one…you always notice the sax player but it’s (usually) easy to overlook the bassist but Karnes and his complex strumming command attention. Not to be upstaged, John Wicks and Boston-born Jeremy Ruzumna gave us all a little bit extra to tap our toes to on drums and keys respectively. Notice anything missing? Yep. Guitar. Fitz ain’t havin’ it and honestly…they don’t need it. I didn’t even notice until I got home. They all come together with a perfect synergy and a flashy guitar would throw it all off.
They hit all the high notes you would expect with ‘Breakin’ the Chains of Love’, ‘Rich Girls’ and ‘L.O.V.’ and while those were all fantastic there were a few standouts that took the cake. After about 45 minutes straight of dancing, they finally slowed it down a bit with the regret-laced ballad, ‘Tighter’. As if the song wasn’t already amazing enough the sheer relief of relaxed swaying made it that much more awesome. While Fitzpatrick crooned the painfully beautiful song a somber mood fell over the crowd. Happily married, single or otherwise, in that moment we all felt what he felt when he wrote it – I think we all melted a little. The most special moment of the night, however, came after the politically-charged ‘Dear Mr. President’. The crowd was on a major high after this track and were bombarding the band with their appreciation. It was so loud I don’t think they could’ve started the next song had they wanted to. Clearly taken aback by this display, they just stood in awe for a few minutes. It was at this moment that I was reduced to a sniveling little girl because so moved were Fitz and his Tantrums that Michael and Noelle actually began to cry. It was a quiet moment set within a tremendous roar and something I’ll never forget. That kind of gratitude is not something you see everyday. They’re one of the hardest working bands right now and you can tell they credit the fans with every rung they make up the ladder.
Finishing with all of that ‘teary bullshit’, they kicked it into overdrive to finish the set with new track ’6AM’, the ever angry ‘News 4 You’ and an incredible cover of Annie Lennox’s ‘Sweet Dreams’.
The performance hearkened back to a simpler, less serious time in music that’s since been forgotten. It was retro without being contrite. The band had incredible charisma and presence that had nothing to do with ego or fame. And they do it all effortlessly, tirelessly and gladly. They promised to come back in the fall and I will most certainly be there with bells on. If they come to your city definitely make the time. Bring the Kleenex. You might need it.