Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fitz and the Tantrums at Irving Plaza

Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick purchased an old Conn electronic organ in 2008. That same night, he wrote the song "Breakin' the Chains of Love." He contacted his college friend, saxophonist/keyboardist James King, who recommended singer Noelle Scaggs and drummer John Wicks. In turn, Wicks brought in bassist Joseph Karnes and keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna. Fitz and the Tantrums was born. The Los Angeles-based neo-soul band performed its first show at Hollywood's Hotel Café in December 2008, which Fitzpatrick booked one week after the band’s first rehearsal. The band has released two EPs and two albums, including the More Than Just a Dream LP, released on May 7.

At Irving Plaza tonight, on a night off as the opening act on Bruno Mars’ arena tour, Fitz and the Tantrums played before its own fans. The band performed a 90-minute set derived from its two albums, plus a cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” The band’s catalog was comprised of short pop melodies driven by a blend of soulful vocals and rocking musicianship. In some ways, the band’s performance was a few beats removed from a standard weekend hotel lounge band, in that all the songs were safe, smooth and made for grooving. The difference was that the Tantrums’ songs were original, fresh and dynamic. The innovation stemmed from the Tantrums not simply copying the soul style of the 1960s, but incorporating its dominant features of melody, chorus and vocals into a fresh and organic marriage with modern pop instrumentation without the domination of an electric guitar. Meanwhile, the 42-year-old bandleader and lead singer Fitz and even more so his co-vocalist Skaggs encouraged fan reaction with their stage presence, showmanship and party-command interaction, engineering a more intimate camaraderie with the audience. The Tantrums’ performance proved it was hip enough to transcend late-night television shows, Top 40 radio and corporate jingles.