Fitz and the Tantrums’ percussionist and singer Noelle Scaggs, singing on stage, Thursday August 18, 2016. The band performed for a soldout audience at the Ace of Spades in Sacramento Calif. Photo by Bryce Fraser
The year 2016 has proved itself a productive year for Fitz and the Tantrums. With the release of their new album and hit single “Handclap,” and tour dates across the country, the six-piece pop-rock band is streamlining from their indie roots toward a mainstream presence.
The proof was in Thursday night’s crowd as the show was not only sold out, but the atmosphere felt thick with anticipation for the band to show up. Once the members started taking their position past the smoky background of a stage, cheers filled the room to a band that assumes a superpower presence confidently.
While the show overall was entertaining and poppy, Michael Fitzpatrick’s voice failed to reverberate past the front row. When comparing the studio version of “Spark” to the live version at Ace of Spades, it was unfortunate to hear Fitzgerald’s voice lack that sharper edge that creates such an appeal in the band’s later work.
He hadn’t redeemed himself till much later on when he treated his fans to the nostalgic gem “Moneygrabber.” At that point, the expectation of a sharp voice by a live Fitzpatrick had already left the venue.
The night was not without total consequence. The show was very much energetic — just not mainly from Fitzpatrick. Instead, co-lead singer Noelle Scagges brought the hype with her encouragement of crowd clapping and dancing during instrumentals. She reminded people that they were at a live show.
Then there’s saxophonist James King. His solos not only demanded attention but retained it. His mastery of playing is one of the reasons why Fitz and the Tantrums’ eccentric style of music doesn’t come off as eccentric. It somehow combines elements that shouldn’t go well together into a fusion that proves itself a coherent, competent unit, which is a blessing for the usual mix of Sacramento bands that pride themselves on fusion.
It’s not like Fitzgerald’s singing was atrocious, either. His monologue to the crowd before each song excited the audience. Fitz and the Tantrums is still a band worth seeing, but the differences between studio sound vs. live sound showed stark contrast and should be noted before attending one of their concerts.
The retro-reminiscent band remains a treat for the Sacramento scene. Sactown’s usual scene of fusion mixes could learn a thing or two from Fitz and the Tantrums, a band that has broken barriers of the swathes of indie bands trying to get their name in the limelight. If any band could do that, Patrick Fitzgerald and company are capable of doing it.
The sound is there. The energy is there, as is the capability of captivating the ears of larger crowds. For example, the Golden1 Center that is due to finish this year. Fitz and the Tantrums was a treat at Ace of Spades, and it would be worth a listen to seeing them in a Staples Center-sized venue.
Maybe it’s to their benefit that they emerged in the later half of the 2000s, when the indie-rock craze has mostly fizzled down to who made it and who remains deep in the indie woods.
But above all, it should be noted that this is one of the bands that sounds different live compared to what you listen to on your Spotify. It is up to the listener on what they like more.