By Andy Powers, Staff Writer
Despite their new electro-pop trappings, Fitz and the Tantrums is still running on soul power. The band began firmly in retro-soul territory with 2010’s “Pickin’ Up the Pieces”, but with their sophomore release, “More than Just a Dream,” Fitz and company ditched the horns for synths.
Their new, modern sound brought in success with a mainstream audience and assuaged Fitz’s fear of being typecast as just another retro outfit, however the band also lost some of its distinctive flavor. Both sounds were on full display at the House of Blues on Monday night.
The band is certainly up to the challenge of either style and swapped between their new and old stuff with ease. Whether they were blowing out the speakers with their 2013 pop attack or laying down old school soul on James King’s sax, the band was at the top of their craft.
Any attempt to decide which sound is better would be like comparing apples to oranges; however, the lack of middle ground means that the band loses half the audience at the beginning of each song. Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, the lead vocalists, managed to bridge this gap by dressing their new songs with gospel-like introductions, and the old songs got a slick layer of polish to bring them into the new decade.
But these temporary fixes do not make for a cohesive image, and the band threatens to continually buck its audience with each new album.
Fans were probably better served by the Tantrums’ tour mates, Capital Cities. Capital Cities also manages to avoid being pigeon-holed as just another retro group, despite a clear disco influence. This band simultaneously makes use of hip hop beats, funky samples, and a trumpet so syrupy it could give Mrs. Butterworth a run for her money, and the result is familiar and cutting edge all at once.
Capital Cities’ sounds like it’s accomplishing what Fitz and the Tantrums are failing at. They have managed to keep retro fresh without losing any of their uniqueness in the process. But Capital Cities are missing the one skill that Fitz and the Tantrums have mastered.
Fitz and the Tantrums have an uncanny ability to make the audience feel as if it were part of the show. The way that Scaggs calls on the audience for “soul power” or the long winded monologues Fitzpatrick unleashes before diving into a song, make it feel as if the band is performing with the crowd, not for it.
The band might cull its audience with each new album, but that only adds to the sense of exclusivity. As long as Fitz and the Tantrums can pull the soul out of whatever genre they find themselves in, they can depend on the crowd for fuel.