Frankly, I was confused walking into the Potawatomi Bingo Casino Stage for Fitz and the Tantrums late Friday evening. Admittedly, I'm not the most seasoned veteran of Summerfest, but I was always under the assumption that the humble stage was for small acts that drew a more laid-back and sit-down kind of crowd. I wasn't quite sure the petite venue was ready for the world-touring indie soul group.
As it turns out, the Potawatomi Stage was perfectly prepared for the band and the packed crowd. It was I who was ill prepared for Fitz and the Tantrums' infectiously energetic and sultry set that somehow managed to make the balmy night even steamier.
The modern soul group got its start in Los Angeles in 2008, gathering up gigs and picking up fans before releasing their first and currently only album, "Pickin' Up the Pieces." The 2010 record attracted some impressive attention for Fitz and the Tantrums, including from VH1, who gave the musicians their "You Oughta Know" stamp (a title previously given to artists like Regina Spektor, Adele and Mumford & Sons) and a gig as the house band for the channel's airing of the 2012 Critics' Choice Movie Awards.
They also caught the ear of Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine, who made the jazzy up-and-comers their opening band for several shows, including last year's Summerfest appearance at the Miller Lite Oasis.
One year later, Fitz and the Tantrums are no longer the opener but the headliner and deservedly so. They set the tone early with their opening numbers, the groovy "Don't Gotta Work It Out" and "Winds of Change," which thoroughly showcased the band's sassy attitude and vivacious on-stage energy.
Considering the humid temperature, it'd be easy for the group to lose their spunky spirit as the show went on. Somehow, though, Fitz and the Tantrums became even more lively and entertaining to watch. During the snappy "L.O.V.," lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick hopped across the stage, bounding from the top of the speakers on the left of the stage to Jeremy Ruzuma's keyboard on the opposite side in between leading the crowd in an organized clap.
Fitzpatrick wasn't alone either. Vocalist Noelle Scaggs was constantly dancing with a fascinating rubber-like looseness and banging her tambourine so much that after "Dear Mr. President," her instrument was broken (luckily, she had a back-up on standby).
Put Fitzpatrick and Scaggs on stage together, singing about love gone wrong, and the two performers ignited the stage with a sensual heat that made Milwaukee's recent heat wave seem lukewarm by comparison. During "News 4 U," it seemed like Fitzpatrick could barely take his eyes off of the dancing Scaggs. Their wild chemistry was equally palpable during "Breakin' the Chains of Love" as the two sang at one another barely inches apart.
Their sexy charisma perfectly matched the music's dirty soulful feel. "Tighter," Fitzpatrick's favorite song off of their album, was a sensual slow jam that got into the audience's skin, and their encore cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" took the Eurythmics' dark and brooding original and transformed it into a wonderfully jazzy number.
Of course, it helps when the musical parts are well played and properly balanced. Each part of Fitz and the Tantrums' six-part band could be heard and was given a moment to shine. James King's sax got to steal the spotlight for a sweet solo in "Breakin' the Chains of Love," while "Pickin' Up the Pieces" and "6 AM" (a new song off their upcoming album) showcased Fitzpatrick and Scaggs' ear-pleasing harmonies.
Perhaps the show's musical highlight – no easy task to choose just one – was the climactic and chaotic breakdown at the end of "News 4 U." Even Fitzpatrick, who was dancing and swinging his hair around throughout the concert, could barely keep up the energy throughout all of Wicks' raucous solo.
Fitz and the Tantrums' topped off the 70-minute set with an encore performance of their hit "Moneygrabber." Like many of their songs, it's filled with bitter lyrics about a love reaching its end. The words certainly don't speak to the audience's infatuation with the band, which after their contagious performance, was in full bloom.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by OnMilwaukee.com Staff Writers
Published Dec. 11, 2013
It's crunch time now. It's likely the semifinal week of your league's playoffs, and if you win, you're contending for the ultimate prize. We're here to help you reach the fantasy football Super Bowl.
Published Dec. 10, 2013
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation is starting a new MBA school leadership program through the Rader School of Business at MSOE. It marks one of the first such fellowship programs in the country, the other launching at the University of Indianapolis.
Published Dec. 9, 2013
The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) was chosen to represent Wisconsin in American-Architects.com's 50x50.
Published Dec. 8, 2013
This week, we asked the Social Circle if it thought celebrating St. Nick was excessive considering Hanukkah and Christmas and other December gift-focused holidays. What are your thoughts on the other jolly ol' chap?
Published Dec. 7, 2013
It's a loaded set of recommendations this week from OnMilwaukee, featuring everything from sporting events to soulful folk songs to fun with fungi and Fischberger's.
Published Dec. 5, 2013
Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.'s Chairman of the Board, Ted Kellner, announced today that Summerfest 2013 created a positive economic impact of $226 million for the State of Wisconsin, including $187 million for the City of Milwaukee.
Published Dec. 4, 2013
It's the playoffs, and you're feeling good about it. But maybe you've got that guy stashed on your bench that might be poised for a breakout, or is a coin flip with another starter on your squad, or you're playing the team with Peyton Manning this week. Well, we're here to help you with who to go with if you're looking for maximum points this week.
Published Dec. 4, 2013
Shampriel Morrise, an 11th grade voice major student at Milwaukee High School of the Arts (MHSA), was one of 700 young artists selected from more than 10,000 applicants across the nation to receive the YoungArts Merit Award.
Published Dec. 4, 2013
It's Christmas time, and that means it's time for cinemas and televisions across the nation to overdose on holiday specials. There are seemingly hundreds of Christmas movies scattered across the entertainment world come November and December. Some are silly. Some are serious. Almost are sappy. But a few manage to become true classics, beloved for years. Here are the OnMilwaukee.com staff's personal favorites.
Published Dec. 2, 2013
These new transit features will be available to view on Thursday, Dec. 5, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the MCTS Fleet Maintenance Building, located at 1525 W. Vine St.