Fitz and the Tantrums August 4, 2013 Crescent Ballroom
Fitz and the Tantrums were the first band I ever reviewed for Up on the Sun, so seeing them Sunday night at Crescent Ballroom was a bit nostalgic.
But the "whoa factor" definitely was still there, from their energetic entrance to the end of the show. Everything seemed just as amazing as the first time I had seen them live, but a few differences were apparent from just a little over a year ago.
From the get go, Fitz and the Tants were very interactive with the crowd. Some people say "very" just to say it, but I stand behind that emphasis. They didn't just ask the crowd to clap and dance along -- they were in sync or even a little ahead of us. This of course is a certain style that the band possesses, not to mention their actual style in attire last night.
Drummer John Wicks was rocking black and white pin-striped long pants, along with his fresh, slicked-out Nikes with green laces, a green Bruno Mars shirt to match, and a fedora to top it all off. Lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick was able to rock his leather jacket for a good three songs before the Arizona heat demanded he take it off. Needless to say, thank goodness they were indoors for this show.
The live sound was spectacular. Many argue that vinyl is how music is supposed to sound; when they do I usually laugh and say, "No, music is meant to be live." And man, can Fitz and the Tantrums sound good live -- as tight or even tighter than what is recorded on their albums. Last night seemed as if nothing was even slightly lagging.
But the intimate connection the band creates with its audience was as important as their live sound. And having seen them, now, in small-show and festival settings, it's clear they're able to do so in multiple atmospheres.
About halfway through the show Fitz asked the crowd, rhetorically, what his plan was for this stop, their first "official" tour stop in Phoenix. The answer: That everyone get hot and messy. Noelle added that Phoenix had some mighty fly-looking people, which got them on their side.
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Everything to do with that energy and that connection was there, just as I had remembered it. Nostalgia set in for me and probably for the others in the crowd who'd seen them before. The only major difference between this appearance and last, obviously, was the new material, and I was nervous about both how the crowd would react and how Fitz and the Tants would present the new stuff.
It wasn't a problem. The new material from More Than Just a Dream was presented with such a sense of pure fun that the crowd automatically accepted it. That Motown funk sound was still there -- don't even begin to doubt that -- but as Wicks explained in our chat prior to the show, each member of the band brought new tastes and inspirations to the new material. It's so diverse that you can even tell which songs or even segments of songs members were particularly enthusiastic about.
But Fitz and the Tantrums' music is more about having fun than it is any particular sound, and if the band and the crowd can both have a blast it's a match made in heaven.
Critics Notebook: Last Night: Fitz and The Tantrums at Crescent Ballroom. The Crowd: 21+ really did say it all. I was next to a guy who was my dad's age, and he was loving him some Fitz. Personal Bias: Besides being blown away by the band once more, I have concluded that you shouldn't label or put barriers up in your mind about what this band can or can't do. Those barriers will come tumbling down in a heartbeat. Overheard in the Crowd: After Fitz showed his knowledge of the Phoenix metro area by listing out some suburbs like, Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe . . . some guy in the crowd took it upon himself to express his feelings about a specific suburb by yelling, "Fuck Mesa!" Random Notebook Dump: Noelle wins the dance contest between Fitz and her. At least that's my vote, but it's a tough call with Noelle's tambourine moves and Fitz's chaotic jumping and occasional slamming on Wicks' drum set. Setlist: Keepin Our Eyes Out Don't Gotta Work It Out Winds of Change Break the Walls Breaking the Chains Of Love Spark Sweet Dreams House on Fire Fools Gold Out of My League 6AM Dear Mr. President Tighter L.O.V. Encore: MoneyGrabber The Walker News 4 U