Fitz and The Tantrums
January 25, 2023
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Fitz and The Tantrums (FATT) put a charge into a chilly San Francisco winter night with an electric performance at the Regency Ballroom Wednesday night. To the delight of a packed house, the 5-piece multi-platinum outfit from Los Angeles blasted out a barrage of infectious pop sunshine, moving the crowd from the front row to the upper balcony.
Led by founder and lead vocalist/guitarist Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, Fitz and The Tantrums: Noelle Skaggs (co-lead vocals), James King (horns/guitars/percussion), Jeremy Ruzumna (keys), Joseph Karnes (bass), and John Wicks (drums), transformed The Regency into a summertime dance party despite the fact that it was January and the outside SF temps dipped into the low 40s.
FATT has slightly transformed their sound over the years, but what has remained constant is their penchant for rump shaking live performances. This night was a perfect example of FATT at the top of their game.
Dressed more for a summer backyard party than a frigid winter SF day, FATT immediately soared to high altitudes upon take off of their set. As soon as the house lights dimmed and the brightly colored stage lighting fired up, Fitz took control of the stage and the evening, counting the band into the indie pop sweetness of ‘Sway,’ the lead single from their November ’22 release Let Yourself Free.The crowd went bananas, hopping up and down incessantly and actually causing the gymnasium style floor of The Regency to undulate and bounce beneath their feet…..inducing a feeling of riding small waves.
‘Sway’ and the next song ‘Heaven’ are strong barometers of the ‘good times’ vibes of Let Yourself Free which has more of a polished, jangly, dance-pop sound than the neo-soul velvet that was the signature of early FATT as demonstrated on the 2010 release Pickin’ Up the Pieces.
Judging from the audience reaction and participation during this performance, it seems fans don’t mind change one bit. The evolution of their musical style has FATT better positioned for long-term staying power. It is similar to the metamorphosis of Black Eyed Peas and Michael Franti, both of whom recalibrated their respective sounds to resonate with larger audiences, poising them for greater pop success.
As a matter of fact, FATT definitely played to their new musical sweet spot as the vast majority of their 18-song set was derived from their last two releases. Aside from playing six tracks off of their most recent record, five others were drafted from the 2019 recording All the Feels, which added a new wave flavor to their dance-pop mix.
‘OCD,’ which has a bit of a driving sound similar to The Weeknd, had the crowd pogoing and mouthing the lyrics. ‘Livin For the Weekend’ (with an anthemic sound reminiscent of Imagine Dragons) continued the singalong as Fitz and Noelle Skaggs started a call and response hootenanny with the crowd chanting the ultra-catchy chorus. Fitz and Skaggs have a unique chemistry and play off of each other not only with their stage presence and dancing, but also with their tandem co-lead vocals which had their singing synchronized through most of the set.
The band was equally as locked in, and many of the FATT hooks can be tied to keyboard hooks from Jeremy Ruzumna or fantastic splashes of James King’s saxophone. Closing the main set with the irresistible bounce of ‘The Walker’ (which was the everywhere #1 single from the 2013 album More Than Just a Dream), the crowd was up on their feet and on a musical high, and they did not want the party to end just yet.
After a short jaunt offstage, FATT returned with Fitz telling the very inspirational story of how FATT was close to never actually being a band. He went on to relate that after multiple failed attempts to gain traction in the music business, and having to go back to take traditional jobs, he ultimately (cue crowd participation) said “Fuck that!!” and followed his dream. It wasn’t until he was 38 that FATT finally started to take off, and some 15 years later it has been hard earned (and greatly appreciated) success with no regrets. After his story, the audience roared as FATT started into ‘Money Grabber,’ their 60s soul drenched first single (and only song in the set from Pickin’ Up the Pieces).
Following along with his every gesture and dance move, the room exploded as Fitz conducted the band through their encore set, eventually finishing with the ubiquitous stadium anthem ‘HandClap.’
The only ‘down’ during this evening of ‘up’ was that the set was relatively short. Though they blasted through 18 songs, they are all of short duration (as is requisite for current pop attention span). So after 75 minutes of sweating, FATT released their fans back to the cold evening chill, with summertime songs on replay in their heads and free posters in their hands.