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Fitz And The Tantrums Stun With Soul, Funk And Rock Raucousness

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 22, 2011 10:00PM

Somewhere around the mid-point of Fitz and the Tantrums exhilarating, sold-out show Sunday night at the Metro, the band's emotionally-charged performance hit the audience with the intensity of a blast furnace.

In the thirty minutes before, the audience had been shimmying, dancing and clapping to the music. Fitzpatrick and fellow force-of-nature vocalist Noelle Scaggs led the packed house through one high energy song after another. The soulful snappiness of "Pickin' Up the Pieces" had arms both onstage and in the crowd ebulliently raised overhead. The band didn't even bother with a buildup for "Rich Girls," choosing instead to tear into a kicked-up version of of the song that made us question if we've ever seen a crowd get hyped so fast.

The talented sextet have no trouble playing poppy soul with a retro-cool twist. Backed by the amazing saxophonist/flutist James King along with bassist Joseph Karnes, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna and drummer John Wicks, the band makes their blend of Southern Soul, blues and rock look effortless.

As frontmen, Fitzpatrick and Scaggs make the songs not only lively but deeply convincing. The duos crackling chemistry during "6 a.m." nearly set the stage on fire, while elsewhere in the show each sang with a familiarity that made you certain they must be singing about their own heartbreak. If the pair weren't signing from the heart, they were effective storytellers of a familiar woes: love, loss, heartache and redemption. "MoneyGrabber" fit the template of a fiery soul song and was most certainly not from a personal experience--but was played just right so that it never felt cheesy or facile.

Now back to that startling mid-show moment. When the songs turned into more introspective soul tunes, the lights dimmed but the crowed (hip to seemingly every word of every song) was still roaring and rocking. Their excitement added to Fitzpatrick's emotive singing mounted until Fitzpatrick finished the song, apparently in tears as he took a knew on stage and buried his face into his hand.

The tears didn't appear to be ones of sadness or misery (we hope), and the crowd responded with a nearly two minute frenzy of applause usually heard during the encore. Clearly overwhelmed, Fizpatrick and Scaggs thanked the crowd several times throughout the show declaring it to be the best yet of their whole tour.

Fitz and the Tantrums, the incredible showmen and woman that they are, could very well have been toadying to an adoring audience. But given how well they band radiated with such conviction in their songs, our money is on sincerity. Though after the hour-plus set was a start-to-finish dance party that was as soulful as it was fun, Fitz and the Tantrums could have convinced us of almost anything.

Fitz and the Tantrums play their last of three shows tonight at Metro, 3730 N Clark, 9 p.m., Sold Out