Review: Fitz and the Tantrums deliver stylish, stripped-down soul at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg
(Above: Fitz and the Tantrums perform at the Play 98.7 studios in St. Petersburg, hours before their show Wednesday at the State Theatre.)
All musicians borrow. Some do it better than others.
Fitz and the Tantrums aren’t trying to bring back an era, even if their music abounds with the sunny spirit of Top 40 soul circa 1969-1974.
The sextet strips down that sound to its most attractive essentials. Except for the rhythm section pinning it all down, the Tantrums’ music is almost all hooks.
That’s likely what brought a close-to-capacity crowd to the State Theatre Wednesday night, one that was a bit older and better dressed than the venue’s usual denizens.
The crowd was plenty enthusiastic, though, singing along and responding lustily to the call-and-responses led by singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs.
Without being self-consciously retro, the band tapped into the high-energy, crowd-motivating energy of the best soul revues. Fitzpatrick may be the lead vocalist, but Scaggs was just as much a front person, moving frenetically from start to finish and masterfully exhorting the crowd.
The band -- James King on sax and flute, Joseph Karnes on bass, Jeremy Ruzumna on keyboards and drummer John Wicks -- got to stretch out briefly on L.O.V., but otherwise stuck to the script presented on the band’s debut full-length album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces.
Likewise, neither Fitzpatrick nor Scaggs engaged in any of the vocal histrionics so painfully common in the age of American Idol.
Instead, the set featured faithful recreations of the songs’ studio versions, albeit juiced significantly by the band’s live prowess.
There were a couple of cover surprises – The Raconteurs’ Steady as She Goes and Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), the latter the first number of the encore.
Hard to say which tune seemed less likely, but both worked well. King’s baritone sax turned the guitar riff of Steady into a gruff, R&B bass line.
Show closer MoneyGrabber closed the show with a massive sing-along on the chorus.
-- Curtis Ross, tbt*. Photo courtesy of Play 98.7.