Sunday, September 28, 2014

Concert review: Fitz and the Tantrums - Riverside, Calif.

During Fitz and the Tantrums' 2013 whistle-centric modern rock chart topper "The Walker," Michael Fitzpatrick sings, "99 miles per hour baby is how fast that I like to go." 

No argument there. 

The Los Angeles soul-influenced pop/rock band's first appearance in Riverside, Calif. on Saturday night was so energetic that the 85-minute show raced by in a flash. The Municipal Auditorium was packed with enthusiastic fans.
Both Fitzpatrick and co-vocalist/percussionist Noelle Scaggs emerged onstage with hands clapping high in the air. They immediately got some call and response action going amid Jeremy Ruzumna's spirited Farfisa organ work on "Get Away." It was the first of 11 tracks performed from last year's impressive More Than Just a Dream.  

That led straight into "Don't Gotta Work it Out," where the band locked into a deliciously soulful groove and eventually increased the tempo. "Break the Walls" was an early standout. "Breakin' the Chains of Love" featured judicious bursts of sax by James King, who alternated between baritone, tenor and alto models (not to mention keyboards and flute) on various songs. "Keepin' Our Eyes Out" contained an entrancing old school soul uplift. Rarely standing still onstage, Fitzpatrick and Scaggs did some dance moves together and sang facing each other during strategic moments of the show. 

"With us, it's all about getting down and dirty," he said, before a hyperactive "Spark." Before the group's jaunty cover of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," Fitz reiterated that point by talking about sexiness and later, cheating romantic partners - a favorite lyrical subject matter - to introduce the haunting "House on Fire."

photo by George A. Paul
On the latest album, "Last Raindrop" is upbeat and danceable. Here, it was revamped live into a stripped down dramatic ballad, with just piano and subtle sax. The result was captivating. A funky "L.O.V." gave Ruzumna and King another chance to shine. They easily whipped the crowd into a frenzy. 

Come encore time, the infectious "Moneygrabber" saw Fitzpatrick do his usual prodding of everyone to crouch down on the floor, then spring back up and pogo around. Once, I saw them do this at the tiny Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa. At least at the Muni, there was slightly more space. A giddy "The Walker" finally brought the spirited concert to an end, complete with a blast of confetti. All told, Fitz and the Tantrums overcame a muddy sound mix and sent concertgoers home on a high note.

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