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 â€“ no easy task to choose just one â€“ 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 May 4, 2016
The Summer Soulstice Music Festival announced its lineup of musical performers for its 16th annual summer celebration, hosted this year on East North Avenue on Saturday, June 25 from noon to midnight.
Published May 3, 2016
Tosa Tonight, a free summer concert series held assorted Wednesday nights at the Rotary Performance Pavilion, announced its lineup of musical acts for this year's edition.
Published May 3, 2016
Very much influenced by the '90s with its easygoing but conscious hip-hop style, AUTOMatic's output is simply great danceable stuff with a great message. WMSE's Local/Live chatted with the trio's producer TrellMatic about Herbie Hancock and his influence on the group.
Published May 2, 2016
This afternoon, the Westown Association announced the lineup of musical performers hitting the stage for this summer's River Rhythms season.
Published May 1, 2016
The weekly grind hardly allows time for a.m. bacon, eggs and hash browns, and if there is time to whip 'em up, they're usually scarfed down fast. That's why weekend brunches are such a relaxing treat. Check out our list of the local Sunday morning hot spots and take some time to savor simple and elaborate breakfast treats.
Published May 1, 2016
Searching for the perfect Milwaukee gift for a dear friend or loved one? Buy local -- and buy often -- from this guide of 100 Milwaukee gifts.
Published April 30, 2016
A Wisconsin waterfall trip worth taking, the perfect nap time and more are awaiting you in this edition of the OnMilwaukee #WeClick.
Published April 30, 2016
When Yessica Jimenez was 4 years old, all of her preschool work was returned to her parents because it was covered in doodles. Jimenez, now 23, is an independent artist working to connect with artists across genres, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reports.
Published April 29, 2016
According to numbers released this morning by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, 2015 showed gains in tourism revenue for the Greater Milwaukee area.
Published April 28, 2016
The German Language and School Society of Wisconsin (DSSV) will celebrate its 60th anniversary this weekend with its annual awards ceremony held on Sunday, May 1 at Marquette University High School.