“We do not tolerate standing around like a wallflower and texting on your cellular devices tonight. We. Get. Down!” screamed Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, the namesake lead singer of the indie pop band Fitz and the Tantrums. With this in mind, the atmosphere of the venue plus the energy radiating from the band members made for an exciting night at the House of Blues.
The indie-pop meets neo-soul musicians played for the people of Boston on Nov. 15. Despite rain and bone-chilling wind, the lines for both VIP and general admission stretched down the length of the sidewalk on either end of the double red doors.
Kicking off an eclectic evening, English musician Barns Courtney took to the stage to warm up the crowd. not only with his soulful voice but with his strange ramblings and funny asides. At just 25 years old, Courtney resembled a young John Mayer in his interactions with the crowd and channeled the voice of Young the Giant’s Sameer Gadhia. In between songs, the young performer daydreamed aloud about just how feasible it would be to live on Mars because of recent political events. After half-mumbling that he would hide out in the vegetable chute of the rocketship, he began singing once more to a slightly more confused audience than he likely intended.
Courtney’s deep voice came with a twist, effortlessly riffing and harmonizing. Having recently opened for artists such as Ed Sheeran and Tom Odell, he performed new singles “Glitter and Gold” and “Fire” as his closing numbers. To the audience’s delight, Courtney announced that he is set to release his own full album in the near future.
Usually at a concert for a group with a large fan base and practically sold-out shows, the audience tolerates a few songs from the opening act but then gets antsy, wanting the main attraction. This show was strikingly different. When Courtney was leaving the stage, one could almost feel the energy trailing off with him, and the crowd members responded with a roar of applause to show their gratitude.
After Courtney’s departure from the stage, the crowd packed together tightly in anticipation of the six-person headliner. One by one, the members took to their instruments along the LED-lit stage. As soon as lead singer Fitzpatrick and backup vocalist Noelle Scaggs stepped into centerstage, the audience radiated a kind of energy that reflected just how beloved the band is.
Fitz and the Tantrums wasted no time with pleasantries and started right into their first song, “Get Right Back,” the title of their fall tour. This jumpstart sent the audience into a frenzy. It’s every artist’s goal to acquire the type of die-hard fans who can sing back every lyric, and the crowd at the House of Blues did not disappoint. While the call-and-response interactions were fun and seemed to please the devoted fans, the sheer number of those moments seemed to take away from the actual performance. Since the vocalists and musicians have such talent, it was almost a shame when the audience was performing and not the band members themselves.
In celebration of their 2016 album, “HandClap,” the band made sure to play an assortment of songs from their growing repertoire. The fan favorite was the titular “HandClap,” a pop pump-up arrangement complete with—you guessed it—hand clapping along to the beat. Other songs from the new album included “Complicated,” “Burn it Down,” “Roll up” and “Run It,” to name a few.
The new album included many more elements of pop music than neo-soul, but that was remedied with the help of the soulful vocals of Noelle Scaggs and the amazing musical stylings of James King.
Scaggs commanded the stage with her all-black, body-hugging outfit and her captivating vocal range. As the only woman in the group, she not only held her own on the male-dominated stage but curated the kind of powerful feminism that penetrates through the other noise on the stage and made people notice.
“I’m the bossy b**** of this band and I own it!” Scaggs said before launching into one of her famous belts.
What set this concert apart from other pop music festivals was the presence of band member James King. Throughout the concert, it seemed as if he would continuously manufacture different instruments out of thin air and then proceed to play them expertly well. His skills on both the alto and tenor saxophone brought the bluesy-soul notes into the limelight, as the band gave King ample time for sax solos and improvised stylings on the bongos, keyboard and even the slide whistle made an appearance.
From beginning to end, Fitz and the Tantrums kept the energy up and by the end of the night, the sweat-drenched performers graciously thanked the audience before confetti cannons sprayed the cheering fans below.
“From all six of us to all of you people, thank you for being real people, real fans and real music lovers,” Fitzpatrick said. “Without you we would not be here tonight. Respect each other, treat each other with kindness.”
Photo by Sophie Cannon