By Pat Quinn
Everyone at the Blue Moose Tap House on Tuesday night had fun. That’s a bold statement but it’s true. People paid no mind to the fact that it was absolutely freezing or that it was a Tuesday. None of that mattered because Fitz and the Tantrums was in the house.
Over 400 people packed Blue Moose to witness a band on the brink of fame and fortune. As Fitz and co. went through their set list, you could see smiles crawl across the faces of those watching. The rhythmic, upbeat, danceable songs Fitz will be famous for turned a cold group of concert goers into loud, sweaty fans. With every song the room got louder and more energetic. It was the most fun someone could have on a subzero Tuesday in February.
During “Breakin’ the Chains of Love,” the first song off the band’s latest effort, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, people were noticeably surprised by the quality of the performance they were getting from the LA natives.
Svengali front man Fitz kept the band and the crowd going with his showmanship swinging the mic back and forth violently as the band ripped through their set list. In a time when a band’s appreciation for their fans seems disingenuous during live performances, it was apparent that every member on stage was thankful for the people who were there. They might have even been a little surprised at the packed house.
To pick just one musician who stood out would be unfair. Bass player Joseph Karnes and drummer John Wicks held down the rhythm section so important to a band based off tight breaks and melody. Their accentuations and flourishes made the complexly structured Fitz songs really pop live. Solos by keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna were a nice display of virtuosity, but the efforts from saxophonist James King were crowd favorites. In a town and venue familiar with the typical 4 or 5 piece rock group, King’s talent on the sax was a welcome and refreshing performance.
When it comes down to it, the stars were vocalists Fitz and singing partner Noelle Scaggs. Their enthusiasm and coordinated dancing created the perfect front for one of the more entertaining bands that has come through Iowa City recently. Scaggs has a powerful and soulful voice with a look strikingly similar to Diana Ross. She kept all eyes on her with a stunning dress and some freestyle vocal performances reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky.”
While Fitz and the Tantrums put on an overall great performance, their cover of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” got the crowd to put their shyness aside and really get down. Fitz and Scaggs alternated singing “Hold your head up, Keep your head up,” while the crowd filled in with “Moving on.” The entire room seemed to be reliving their favorite 80’s moment.
When it came time for the last song, everyone waited with bated breath for the band’s first single off Pickin’ Up the Pieces, “MoneyGrabber.” The band who had not disappointed all night obliged. When the first piano note of the song rang out into the room, the crowd, either through consumption of alcohol or plain excitement, lost all inhibitions. In one of the best displays of showmanship, Fitz and Scaggs got 80% of the room to kneel down to floor during the songs break. After counting down, the chorus came in and the place went nuts again.
This show was a middle of the week gem, and one of the last times anyone will be able to see Fitz and the Tantrums in a venue of that size. They were stylish, genuine, talented, and most of all humbled by the rousing response they got from their Iowa City fans.
Photos by Lars Headington