Review: Fitz & The Tantrums at the Ogden Theatre, 1/15/12

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Fitz & The Tantrums put on a show that was magnetic, engaging and inspiring. Boasting an impressive presence unable to be captured by its recordings, the Los Angeles act absolutely set the stage on fucking fire with an undeniable chemistry between dual vocalists Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs. The sextet focused on the essence of performing. No fancy, distracting lighting, premeditated choreography or no stagey bullshit needed, just expert showmanship.

Right around 10 p.m., the venue went dark and four of the six Tantrums filed out, taking places behind their instruments. Once the lights burst on, Fitzpatrick and Scaggs shimmied out from backstage and dove right into "Don't Gotta Work It Out." Fitzpatrick's tall and lanky Irish soul man stance, paired with Scaggs' rock solid hip-dips, was instantaneously hypnotizing -- a fascinating and perplexing chemistry that would carry the show throughout its ninety-minute lifespan.

Armed with a tambourine, Scaggs played hypeman to Fitzgerald's finger-pointing and fist-throwing as "Breakin' The Chains of Love" and "Winds Of Change" poured from the Ogden's massive speakers. As hard as it was to take the attention off of the two singers' explosive energy, the band proved equally engaging; drummer John Wicks snapped rolls and fills off a gorgeous matte turquoise kit, while saxophone player James King added a third instrumental vocal line to the mix.

Fitz & The Tantrums moved seamlessly through its set, taking the time between songs like "Pickin' Up The Pieces" and "Rich Girls" to talk with the crowd, expressing profuse gratitude for supporting the band throughout it's short history. Fitzgerald moonwalked, ran and slid, hopped, hip-jutted and shook his blonde-streaked black hair with a cool goofiness, while Scaggs kept the show grounded with a terminal cool.

A surprisingly deft cover of Raconteurs' "Steady, As She Goes" showcased more of the Fitz's instrumental expertness, and a showmanship from Fitzgerald and Scaggs that never left fever pitch. The Deee-Lite-inspired intro of "L.O.V." took the vocal pair's perceived on-stage love affair to the next level, as they bent over and shook at each other, stepping into "News 4 U" and bringing the venue's energy to a slow-grinding halt.

Just a few minutes after a quick exit, the band was back for a necessary encore as the crowd chanted "Fitz!" The considerably tame "We Don't Need No Love Songs" ran right into another fantastic cover with Fitz & The Tantrums working some Motown inspiration into Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams." Closing the night with "MoneyGrabber," the audience went wild along with the band, and an unexpectedly marvelous set was over.

Earlier in the evening, we arrived right as the clock struck 8:30 p.m. just as American Tomahawk was loading its gear off stage and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. was loading on a drum kit, several guitars, a slew of electronic instruments and plywood letter boxes spelling out "J R" in lights -- all of which would later serve as tools for distraction as Jr. Jr. wanked it's forty-minute set into boring oblivion.

Opening with "Morning Thought," Jr. Jr.'s guitar neck-throttling and exasperatingly passionate Korg playing was in full effect, with the band's hair-flipping and stage posturing screaming louder than Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott's shared vocals and matching checkered blazers.

The band's sound definitely carried a hefty "to each his own" vibe, as much of the crowd seemed into it's Barenaked-Ladies-meets-Walter-Meego-in-a-Civic-Hybrid-commercial style. Not technically proficient or even willing to step out of major chord line, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. smartly stayed in the safe zone, smiles from the trio engaging a pumped crowd of pale faces.


Personal Bias: None. I had zero expectations for this show. If fact, I hardly knew anyone who had even heard of Fitz & The Tantrums, so arriving to a sold-out Ogden Theatre was a complete surprise. After the show, however, there was no doubt that this, too, could be in contention for one of the best shows of 2012 come the end of the year.

By The Way:This is only the second show I've ever seen at the Ogden in the last decade and a half where there was no stage barricade/photo pit between audience and performer.

Random Detail: Fitz singer Noelle Scaggs shared with the crowd that drummer Wicks had flown into Denver that day -- after running a 26-mile marathon in Phoenix.

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