Forget the Big Bang. Scratch the Fourth of July fireworks. Who needs them when you’ve got Fitz and the Tantrums lighting up Summerfest with their own infectious brand of bright, colorful, explosive fun?
The last time Fitz and the Tantrums hit the Big Gig back in 2012, the trendy neo-soul outfit was placed on the Potawatomi Bingo Casino Stage (now the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage). It was certainly odd placement, choosing a moderately sized, closed-in venue for an increasingly popular band whose on-stage energy levels register well above moderately sized and could doubtfully ever be confined.
Two years and several more hit singles later, Summerfest got it right, putting Fitz and the Tantrums on a stage – the Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard – worthy of their endless live electricity. There, lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick and company accepted their promotion and the demands of a bigger stage head on, delivering yet another contagiously energetic set that thrilled the crowd, filled to the brim with loud enthusiastic fans and one very peculiar owl on a stick (it was weird; don’t ask).
With a glowing blue heart-maze design in the background and a whole new album – last year’s "More Than Just a Dream" – of sassy breakup anthems in tow, the band cracked open the show with "Get Away" and "Don’t Gotta Work It Out." On both numbers, the energy levels were cranked to 11, with the audio mix rocking, Fitzpatrick’s vocals sounding great and getting the crowd moving, and his singing co-star Noelle Scaggs bouncing and grooving on stage as though her bones consisted solely of rubber and Slinkies (as well as bruising her tambourine to the beat with the joint duo of her hand and hip).
The group’s soulful sprint – though certainly not without interacting with the crowd – continued on into "Break the Walls." That was followed up by "Breakin’ the Chains of Love" and "Keepin Our Eyes Out." The former featured the first of many explosive and impressive sax solos from James King, while the latter put Fitzpatrick and Scaggs’ tight, hot harmonies on display. If they sounded a little off earlier on "Don’t Gotta Work It Out," here – and for the rest of the night – they were right on point.
The main takeaway, however, was that Fitzpatrick had the crowd in the palm of his hand. If he wanted them to sing along, the fans would start belting; if he wanted them to throw their hands or fists in the air, you could bet they’d be flying. He and Scaggs were certainly putting in an effort, and that, along with their charisma, was contagious. It almost felt rude not to join in their dancing and enthusiasm. The two had to towel off almost every other song, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some in the crowd broke out a sweat too just watching (even before Fitzpatrick’s reminder that they "don’t accept standing around and being on your cell phone").
Ironically enough, right after that announcement was the set’s brief, lone lull, the combination of "Spark" and "Dear Mr. President." "Spark" seemed to require more effort than usual from the two singers, and "Dear Mr. President" fell oddly between another rock number and a slow ballad. Both still sounded good, however, and on "Spark," Fitzpatrick and Scaggs were at least able to feed off of each other and unleash some of their palpable chemistry (which would make a furious return later on "6AM," with the cute little added touch of sixes in the stage lights).
The quick dip – if you even want to call it that – quickly disappeared as Fitz and the Tantrums charged into their jazzy rendition of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." Forget the original’s subdued, emotionless techno cool; this cover – heck, the whole set – was a sultry, funky firecracker, complete with manic yelling faces and drum swatting from Fitzpatrick. Another hit – this time an original, "Out of My League" – came next, much to the roaring glee of the crowd.
After the bass-booming "House On Fire," Fitzpatrick quickly extinguished what sounded to be a little altercation in the crowd ("this is a show about love," he preached, before demanding they behave or separate) and hopped into "Fools Gold." The song is their next single, and judging by the enthusiastic response, it’ll be another hit.
The band slowed it down one more time with "Last Raindrop" – a fine ballad made spectacular by the beautiful starry night of swaying cell phone screens and lighters in the crowd – before blasting out "Tell Me What Ya Here For" and the ecstatic finale "LOV," featuring one more sweet James King sax solo, Fitzpatrick erupting from the drums back onto the stage and an insane final breakdown. Even if there was no encore, it was a vigorously fun closer to a vigorously fun set.
Of course, there was an encore, with the vicious breakup kiss-off "MoneyGrabber" and the smash hit "The Walker." Both got the crowd excited one last time and even got them actually dancing and getting down – quite literally in the case of "MoneyGrabber" – on the bleachers, an impressive feat considering standing on the metal benches can grant wobbly, calcified knees to even the most spritely of teenagers. At the end, Fitz and the Tantrums wanted a dance party atmosphere, and they got pretty much that.
When Fitz and the Tantrums first came to Summerfest in 2011, they were merely the openers for the main act: Maroon 5. The headliner stage – now appropriately sized – is all theirs, and Friday night, they owned it.
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 Matt Mueller
Published Oct. 21, 2014
In early 2012, music fans found themselves entranced by two hypnotically romantic pop songs cryptically released onto YouTube. The songs were gorgeous, a dreamy high voice with just a touch of smokiness crooning intimate lyrics over seductively simple electronic arrangements. Everyone just wanted to know who was responsible. It was an impressive little indie music mystery ... especially since it was essentially an accident.
Published Oct. 20, 2014
In 2012, comedian Tig Notaro went through a series of intense, significant personal crises that would be overwhelming in a four-year stretch, much less in merely four months. In a matter of a few months, Notaro faced a break-up, a sudden death in the family and two potentially fatal ailments. And in the middle of all of that, she had a stand-up gig at Largo in Los Angeles. The rest, as the cliché says, is history.
Published Oct. 16, 2014
A little over a decade ago, Milwaukee musician and Testa Rosa lead vocalist Betty Blexrud-Strigens got a chance to see the legendary Patti Smith in Madison. Even though the show came quite some time after Smith's punk glory years, Blexrud-Strigens still remembers the rock legend providing a charge. Now, it's up to Blexrud-Strigens and a roster of Milwaukee artists and musicians to bring that essence back to the stage with "Smith Uncovered."
Published Oct. 15, 2014
After three years, The Rural Alberta Advantage is taking a new album on the road, including a return stop at Turner Hall Ballroom on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. Before then, however, OnMilwaukee.com chatted with the band's drummer Paul Banwatt about the process behind "Mended with Gold," looking back at the band's past and spending some time in a creepy Canadian cabin. And, of course, hockey.
Published Oct. 14, 2014
Judged as awards bait, "Kill the Messenger" won't likely snag the golden glory it's looking for. Once you remove the arbitrary frame of awards season, "Kill the Messenger" is a solid, satisfyingly unpredictable and well performed journalism drama that - following the lead of "Shattered Glass" and, of course, "All the President's Men" - often plays like a tense thriller.
Published Oct. 13, 2014
At the end of the month, the Milwaukee Public Museum will celebrate the fall - as well as its current "Alien Worlds and Androids" exhibit - with a Sci-Fi Film Fest. Every Thursday and Saturday (save for Thanksgiving) from Oct. 23 through Nov. 29, the museum will screen a sci-fi flick in the Dome Theater.
Published Oct. 12, 2014
How does one stretch a barely 30-page short story of accumulated gripes and grumbles into a feature length film? In the case of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," the answer is simple: poorly. By the time its 82-minute running time comes to a grateful close - and all of the cliché, contrived and crude chaos with it - Alexander's bad day has morphed into the audience's bad day.
Published Oct. 10, 2014
Few bands have come out of the gates as strongly as Milwaukee's own Field Report. So it's safe to say the bar was set high for Field Report's eventual sophomore attempt, one nicely cleared by "Marigolden," released Tuesday, Oct. 7.
Published Oct. 7, 2014
Just when it seemed like the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival was just beginning. As it turns out, 14 days goes extremely fast, as the sixth annual cinema extravaganza comes to a close Thursday night. But let's not quite start throwing dirt on the festival's casket quite yet. There still are three days of movies, filled with plenty of great options to offer. Here are some of the best of the rest of the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival.
Published Oct. 6, 2014
If the opening moment of "Wetlands" desperately pleads against its existence, the ensuing 109 minutes of youthfully exuberant gross-out comedy - currently showing at the Milwaukee Film Festival with a final showing Monday night at the Times Cinema at 10 p.m. - couldn't be a more enthusiastic endorsement for it.