Good things tend to happen when you place a big band in a small space. That was the case when high-energy California six-piece Fitz and the Tantrums kicked off their tour at the cozy, 300-capacity Columbia City Theater.
The band is touring behind their upcoming full-length “More Than Just a Dream,” which is scheduled to be released May 7, and their 16-song set featured several of the new songs, beginning with set opener “Keepin Our Eyes Out.” While the song is new, that didn’t stop most in the crowd from busting a move. The playful interplay between the group’s dual singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs and their near constant dancing helped sell the song and got those in the crowd who weren’t already moving to start getting their boogie on and that very boogie lasted until the band left the stage 75 minutes later.
Elsewhere in the set the two singles released from the album so far – “Out of My League” and “Spark” – got big responses and “The Walker,” which is could be the record’s sleeper hit, was perfectly placed during the encore. Its catchy whistling and driving four-on-the-floor beat make it a standout track on an impressive sophomore album filled with several delightfully infectious earworms.
But the night wasn’t exclusively new material. Fan favorites like “L.O.V.” and “Breaking the Chains of Love” kept hips-shaking and a saxed-up cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” powered by multi-instrumentalist James King, ensured that everyone was able to get their groove on. The new songs meshed well with the group’s older material and anyone who enjoyed Fitz’s debut “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” will find plenty to enjoy with “More Than Just a Dream.”
Aside from being the tour-opener and an opportunity for the group to showcase new material, the night was also special because of the venue. The last time Fitz and the Tantrums performed in Seattle they headlined a festival in front of roughly 10,000 fans. By contrast Columbia City Theater is a former vaudeville club and the limited capacity venue created a very intimate environment, providing a rare opportunity to see a big band in a very small space.
It was so intimate that Scaggs found herself joking and chatting directly with fans between songs. Prior to “Break the Walls” she heckled a couple in the front who appeared reluctant to dance. Her heckling was in jest, but she warned them that there’s no room for standing still at a Fitz and the Tantrums show. Scaggs kept her eye on them throughout the night and when checked back with the pair prior to the first song in the encore, “Moneygrabber,” they were busting loose. Of course it wasn’t just the folks up front who were dancing. In the back of the room businessmen in their fifties were dripping sweat while cutting a rug with their dates and younger couples were seen doing the same in the balcony.
Given the band’s repertoire of throwback Motown-esque soul and vintage R&B sounds, it easy to imagine how Fitz and the Tantrums could have been a one-and-done band. You know the type, a group that finds success after releasing a fine debut record, gets a few songs placed in commercials and movies here and there and then quietly goes away, forever doomed to reside in the nostalgic recesses of one-hit-wonder land. But one of the keys to Fitz and the Tantrums’ success, aside from their ability to craft catchy songs, is that they hit a musical sweet spot demographically which allows their music to span generations. They create music hipsters in their twenties and their parents (and in some cases their grandparents) can enjoy together. Combine that with a fun, energetic live show and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for success.
The highly positive response to the “More Than Just a Dream” songs that made it into the set could mean it will be the group’s breakthrough album that leads to mainstream success. But based off their stellar live show alone it is clear you won’t be looking for Fitz and the Tantrums in the “where are they now” bins of your local record shop any time soon; you’ll be seeing them on the dance floor instead.
Keepin Our Eyes Out
Don’t Gotta Work it Out
Winds of Change
Break the Walls
Breaking the Chains of Love
Out of My League
Dear Mr. President
News 4 You