People in Colorado love live music. That statement can apply anywhere in the country, of course, but in Colorado, the ability to see shows in amazing indoor and outdoor venues year-round seems like just as much of a reason that folks move here as our weed, our mountains and, well, our weed. Last night's Fitz and the Tantrums show at the Ogden Theatre felt like one of those shows that brought out the music fan hobbyists -- the crowd was diverse and head over heels for the Los Angeles band, which, by all accounts, brought it.
A two-night engagement in Denver at the Ogden Theatre was a smart choice: The band played the same venue last time it was here, in 2012, and the room just works well for its '80s-inspired, big-band sound. This time, though, the stage was overtaken by a fancy lighting rig that I found to be more distracting than useful. Still, all eyes were on lead vocalists Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs.
The two have an interesting chemistry; it's kinetic but not sexual, Scaggs orbiting Fitzpatrick with a shimmy so quick it looks like he's not even moving next to her spins. The duo had a few choreographed dance moves up its sleeve, too, but the magic came from unscripted moments, times when they came face-to-face with each other and just danced.
The set was peppered with old and new songs, and live, there was a very clear distinction between what was coming from 2010's Pickin' Up the Pieces and the tracks off of last year's More Than Just a Dream. The former just has more of the Motown-throwback sound that Fitz does best, while the latter's songs can sometimes sound like they are trying to too hard to be modern. Regardless, the crowd went just as wild for "Breakin' the Chains of Love" as it did for newer songs like "Fool's Gold" and "MerryGoRound."
In a live setting, the Tantrums' multi-instrumentalist James King acts as a third lead, stepping into the spotlight many times throughout the night to add a saxophone or flute solo to the mix. His best came during "L.O.V.," when King went into the horn line from Jason Derulo's current chart-topper "Talk Dirty to Me." Bassist Joe Karnes added to this version, too, with a snippet of the famous Bootsy Collins bass line from Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart." (A side note: "L.O.V."'s opening line makes a reference to Deee-Lite's "Power of Love," off the same 1990 record.)
Though the band was tight and Scaggs and Fitzpatrick were all about putting on a big show, there were definitely parts of the set when I wondered if there was a backing track being played. Whistles and backup vocals came out of nowhere, which happens a lot with live music, but it kind of took away from a group that is already good live.
The songs from the Tantrums' latest record bordered on what felt like wedding-band-doing-originals. Luckily, a searing cover of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" broke up some of the mid-set monotony, allowing Scaggs to take a little more of the spotlight vocally than she had the rest of the night. A stripped-down version of "Last Raindrop" also offered more time with Scaggs, as she and Fitzpatrick sang the ballad face-to-face.
Overall, the group was tight, and it's still endlessly fun to watch. Scaggs and Fitzgerald love their audience, and it shows. The two singers zigzagged across the stage throughout the show, reaching out to the hundreds of hands held up in heart shapes as the crowd sang along to every word of songs like "Out of My League" and "Spark."
After close to an hour of marathon performing, Fitz and company left the stage for a few moments, only to return with a blazing encore. The popular "MoneyGrabber" threw the audience into a frenzy, and someone from the balcony tossed what looked to be money onto the crowd. "The Walker" brought an explosion of confetti from the stage, coating the happy audience with pink tickertape. With that, Fitz and the Tantrums closed down the first of two nights in Denver and proved once again that theirs is a band for all people.
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