The show was sold-out and the place was packed before the first opener even took the stage. The first band was Belle Brigade, a seven-piece band fronted by siblings Ethan and Barbara Gruska who sound like a country-tinged New Pornographers. AWOLNATION followed with an odd jumble of soul influenced pop songs with punk rock growling thrown in. By the time they finished, the El Rey was packed completely tightly with bodies and excitement for L.A.'s own Fitz and the Tantrums.
Fitz and the Tantrums play soul music that sounds like real old soul music–if it we left the show and it was suddenly 1966 outside, they'd be right at home. A lot of new bands claiming retro-soul/funk influences tend to be cheesy but Fitz and the Tantrums manage to evade all traps of hokeyness and make the sounds of the '60s–perhaps the greatest decade for songwriting ever–their own.
Fitz is a well-dressed and charming frontman whose stage presence and voice compliments Noelle Scaggs', who is an amazing performer all around. She's a great dancer and tambourine player and knows how to get a crowd on their toes. The pair put on quite a show between singing, dancing, hand clapping, tambourine playing, and eager audience participation. They don't have a guitar player, but they fill out their sound with keyboards and a full brass section.
They played all of their first full-length Pickin' Up The Pieces on Silver Lake's Dangerbird Records, a couple songs from their first EP Songs for a Breakup Vol. 1, and a few new ones. They opened with “Don't Gotta Work It Out” (much to the excitement of the crowd) before diving into “Winds of Change” from both Pickin Up' The Pieces and Songs for a Breakup. Fitz classics “Breakin' The Chains of Love” and “Pickin' Up The Pieces” followed before “Wake Up,” a 3-day-old song that no one's ever heard before tonight. It's got the same Motown-meets-Stax sound and lyrics just as heartbreaking as ever.
They changed pace for a moment with the slow groove “We Don't Need No Love Songs,” and picked it up again with “Dear Mr. President” and “L.O.V.,” two songs that demand hand-clapping and a lot of dancing, with “Dear Mr. President,” a love letter to the president, ending dramatically with Fitz on his back on the floor with Noelle's heel on his chest.
The best of the night was “News 4 U,” which Fitz dedicated to all those who are just a little bit pissed off , especially those irritated about ambiguous text messages. The dedication got a huge applause, so I'm guessing most of the crowd could relate. They rounded
out the set with a fantastic cover of Eurythmics' “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
1. Don't Gotta Work It Out
2. Winds of Change
3. Breakin' The Chains of Love
4. Pickin' Up The Pieces
5. Wake Up
6. We Don't Need No Love Songs
7. Six AM
8. Dear Mr. President
10. Santa Stole My Lady
11. Darkest Street
12. Rich Girls
13. News 4 U
14. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (Eurythmics)