When Noelle Scaggs tells the congregation to clap their hands, they don’t think twice about it. But really, who would argue with the sassy, young singer in a gold dress that fits like a glove, giving Tina Turner a run for her money up on the stage? She proves she’s no back-up singer as she shakes, flirts with both the crowd and the leader of the band, and belts out each soulful phrase despite not being able to speak for the past two days.
She thanks God for getting her through each song that night, making the show feel more like a religious experience (further supported by the crowds reactions and movements), and that’s not a far stretch for the soulful sound conveyed by Fitz And The Tantrums, a group that feels like it just stepped out of a time machine and into Bowery Ballroom.
Opening with “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” off its debut album Pickin’ Up The Pieces, the group brings an explosive energy that lasts throughout the show. Lead singer Fitz graciously thanks the sold out crowd for coming to see them perform for the second time in New York, and pays them back by giving them that Daryl Hall-like voice that hardly waivers and is never out of tune. Dressed to the nines in a rather fitted three-piece suit, he doesn’t remove even one layer despite the sweat that gathers on his brow and flies from his two-toned coif as his stomps, struts and even jumps in the air (think the Hives’ Pelle Almqvist in the video for “Hate To Say I Told You So“).
The set covered Pickin’ Up The Pieces in entirety and featured two news songs, “Wake Up” and “6 A.M.,” that indicated the band’s future releases will maintain that same throwback blue-eyed soul sound. Though “Breakin’ The Chains Of Love,” “Pickin’ Up The Pieces,” and “L.O.V.” prompted the biggest surges of energy from the crowd, every part of the set kept heads bobbing, bodies shaking, and (surprisingly) fists pumping. Even during breaks between songs, Fitz and Scaggs kept the show moving with playful banter on his suit and her moves, encouraging the crowd to let out their sexy sides, and introducing us to his parents who enthusiastically got down in the balcony.
Opening act Samuel warmed the audience up for the dancing that would ensue later in the night with catchy electro-pop tunes (performed with a backing track despite his supporting band) that were hard to resist. The singer visually answered the question of, “boxers of briefs?” (briefs) while bopping around the stage and pouring his soul into his microphone. Perhaps more interesting were his keyboardist and tambourine players that both proved their versatility in picking up violins through the set as an unexpected element in the mostly synth-driven tracks. Samuel and his band also prepped the audience for the playful nature of the following act by throwing a beach ball into the crowd, and smiling even as it was tossed back into the drummer’s high hat.
Fitz And The Tantrums had a few surprises of their own, playing a cover of “Sweet Dreams,” originally by the Eurhythmics, that sounded as if it belonged on a Mark Ronson album and involved the crowd in responding to its “Hold your head up, movin’ on” refrain. Saxophonist James King also switched things up by trading in his sax for a flute during “L.O.V.”
Even better was the encore, as the band played “Saturday’s Child,” which apparently was not part of its original encore plans, “We Don’t Need Love Songs,” (off itsSongs For A Breakup Volume 1) and lead single “MoneyGrabber” where the group made the crowd get as low as possible (those that didn’t were called out on the spot), then slowly brought it back up into jumping through the end of the song.