Sounds Of Soul Visit Boston

Countless Top-40 stations herald Bruno Mars as the long awaited soul revivalist the country has been waiting for since the 1970s, but Fitz and the Tantrums proved that they are much more suited for the job during their raucous concert on Friday night. There was a harmonious and wholly enjoyable set that incorporated influences from the past while paving a new musical road.

The crowd skewed calmer than most at the band’s third Boston concert of the year, but it wasn’t without the fights and frenzied dancing usually associated with the horribly restricting House of Blues. Luckily for the crowd, the band embraced the atmosphere and rolled with it, emerging on stage to shrieks suited for the superstars that they are quickly becoming.

One of the night’s biggest surprises was one of its opening bands, Walking the Moon. Featuring a lead singer with a smiley face painted on his cheek, the band delivered a tight and concise set chock full of soul and high-pitched wails. Their high point was a cover of “Winter Hymnal,” a Fleet Foxes song that was elevated to funky heights by the soulful band.

The band is nothing if not professional stage — with slicked back hair, Michael Fitzpatrick pranced around the stage with the microphone in his hand, unleashing his substantial voice to the rafters and back. The sold out House of Blues ate up every moment of his rich, fulfilling tunes. Countless Top-40 stations herald Bruno Mars as the long awaited soul revivalist the country has been waiting for since the 1970s, but Fitz and the Tantrums proved that they are much more suited for the job.

Many of the band’s songs lend themselves to live renditions, their billowing guitars and muffled keyboards echoing off the walls of the boxy venue. The soul-influenced indie pop of Fitz’s debut album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, kept audiences dancing at a feverish pace. With his shock of blond hair waving about as he bobbed his head and threw his arms about, Fitzgerald frequently looked as if he was on the verge of throwing himself into the crowd but consummate musician as he was, never pulled the trigger.

One of the show’s best moments was when the band finally ripped into “MoneyGrabber,” its rollicking hit song that has snared countless fans since its incarnation. Audience members threw themselves towards the stage and crowd surfed for the song’s entirety at Fitzgerald’s hearty encouragement.

Noelle Scaggs, the band’s other lead singer and tambourine player, never let her infectious smile fade over the course of the night, shaking her yellow-frocked hips to the beat. Her charismatic on-stage presence was welcome, as she encouraged every member of the venue to bellow the lyrics to the band’s cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” one of the most surprising and hilarious moments of the entire set. Her voice, silky and seductive, comes packed with an emotional heft of a subtext—it’s a marvel to watch her sing as if her life depends on it.

If anything should be taken away from Fitz and the Tantrums’ triumphant and wonderfully diverse two hour set, it’s certainly that the days of the saxophone in popular music are back with a vengeance. The band showcased a sax player who furiously howled with the gold plated instrument, much to the crowd’s amusement. His brief moments in the spotlight were startling.

Fitz and the Tantrums’ command over the audience was impressive, calling for everyone to squat at one point, which, almost surprisingly, everyone did. It was a wonderful moment of clarity and unity during the band’s encore, but all at once, mania overtook the crowd once again as Fitzgerald screamed at the top of his lungs. At his request, the entirety of the House of Blues was once again dancing and thrashing across the dance floor, hanging off the rafters and aching for more music.

Also, quite encouragingly, many audience members were in their teens and early 20s, a welcome sign that soul and funk can be embraced by multiple generations. The band’s hip outfits and almost drunken enthusiasm kept everyone grooving for hours on end, an incredible feat that certainly cements the band’s place as one of the most spectacular touring acts in the country.


November 13, 2011