By Katelyn Harrop Entertainment Editor
On April 16, Fitz & the Tantrums offered a jam-packed 400-person audience not a concert, but a spectacle that can only be described as a full-fledged production. With the sold-out crowd cramped between the close walls of The Studio at Webster Hall, the buzz was an impatient and slightly drunken excitement. Nestled under Webster Hall’s main concert stage, the underground venue feels more like your favorite dive bar than an establishment that has hosted such groups as Mumford & Sons, Keane, and The National.
After a nearly half-hour transitional period following opening act Hunter Hunted, Fitz & the Tantrums hit the stage with an outrageous energy, both physically and musically. Band front man, who simply goes by the name Fitz, provided incredibly powerful vocals comparable to, if not exceeding, the quality of those found in the band’s recorded work. Vocalist Noelle Scaggs not only sang along side Fritz, but also played the tambourine. Along with the standard modern band instruments were a variety of synthesizer keyboards, flutes, and a particularly principal saxophone.
With the first note of the very first song came the beginning of the unique Fitz experience, really best explained by the way Fitz and Scaggs referred to all of us as their “friends” instead of their “audience.” In such an intimate venue, this invitation into the group’s world was easily accepted and supported by the dancing and arm waving of the exuberant fans. The band jelled perfectly, with the instrumentalists seamlessly supporting the vocalists along with the addition of powerful bass, sax, and percussion solos which really brought the funk/soul/rock feeling that roughly characterizes the group’s genre association. When the instruments took over, Fitz and Scaggs took no break. Instead, dance solos were taken, vocalist-on-vocalist grinding ensued, and audience participation was encouraged.
After swearing off the crowd at the end of their main set, the band reentered for one of the best encores I have ever seen. The moment that the keyboardist began to play the ever-familiar opening cords of the band’s hit “MoneyGrabber” every crowd member, myself included, began to dance along with the single’s infectious vibe. The full band was cued in theatrically as Fitz threw his glass of water (but was it water?) onto the crowd. The audience clapped and bopped along with the band, but the real commitment was felt as Fitz ordered the audience to get down… literally. As I found myself crouched between strangers on The Studio floor, slightly damp from Fitz’s ambiguous beverage, I felt a crowd unity unlike anything I had ever been a part of at a musical event. “Now get up and loose your f*cking minds!” he ordered, and we, every single last audience member, did just that.
In the last couple years I’ve been to some great shows, but none have had the same electric energy as Fitz & the Tantrums. Check out their debut album Pickin’ Up the Pieces and keep your eye out for band’s sophomore LP More Than Just a Dream, available May 7.