By MIKE CHAIKEN
I like Fitz and the Tantrums.
I like their first, second, and third albums.
I’ve interviewed the members a couple of times. And I like talking to them.
So I am obviously predisposed to like them when I see them in concert.
But, truth be told, when they came to The Dome at the Toyota Oakdale in Wallingford on Nov. 11, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go as the curtain hour drew close.
This had nothing to do with the fine folks in Fitz and the Tantrum. It was just the day.
Nov. 11 was a dreary day, gray, and a bit chilly. It was Veteran’s Day so it was kind of laid back and sleepy. And the time change meant it was darker earlier and the temptation was to crawl into bed on a Friday night.
But funny thing about the power of Fitz and the Tantrums, the group is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
I did get my rear over to Wallingford.
As soon as FATT lit into the opening notes of “Get Right Back,” I was glad I braved the night and let my comfy blankets live without me for a while.
The group—led by frontman Fitz—blasted out onto the stage with crackling energy and they never let up. Everyone on stage was standing in a pool of sweat as the evening drew to a close.
The funny thing about Fitz and the Tantrums is they have their share of hits (“The Walker,” “Handclap,” and more) but everything they perform sounds as like as it could be a hit. Some of my favorite tracks were the new song, “Roll Up,” destined to be a hit, another track from the eponymously-titled new album called, “Complicated,” “Moneygrabber” from their debut “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” and “Spark” from “More Than Just a Dream.”
Fitz was in fine voice. I also enjoyed the way fellow singer Noelle Scaggs and he played off each other to
keep the energy amped.
One of the finest musical moments of the evening came from sax player, James King, on “LOV.” King had been bouncing from keyboards, to horns, to slide whistles all night on stage left. But when he was unleashed from his little musical cubicle he exploded. And he set the stage for the rest of the band— Joe Karnes, Jeremy Ruzumna, and John Wicks— to demonstrate their musical acumen on focused solos.
In the end, Fitz and the Tantrums proved to be perfect antidote to a case of the Friday blahs. And it was an antidote I shared with the rest of the crowd, who bopped, danced, and twirled throughout the evening.
I wasn’t expecting an opener for Fitz and the Tantrums since there was no publicity I could find citing an opener.
But when I arrived at the Oakdale I was told there was an opener. That was it. There was no name attached to the tossed off announcement.
When I got to the stage, I saw a guitar case and a bass drum with the name Barns Courtney. The logo had a rustic feel so I thought, okay, I was going to be seeing an some odd pseudo hillbilly band.
Instead, when Barns Courtney stepped out on to stage, I saw a good looking guy, with cheek bones that could cut glass, and a haircut that made me think of an indie band from London, circa 1986.
I expected his voice to be a pop tenor, worthy of a boy band. Instead, this baritone rolled out that was more Bowie than Bieber.
And the music of Barns Courtney had a cool vibe. A little bit of Bowie. A little bit of Echo and the Bunnymen (look up your 1980s musical history). A little bit of classic Johnny Cash (there’s the country feel). And maybe even a little Gene Vincent as he swung about on stage.
The British singer’s music overall was a pleasant surprise. The songwriting needs more of a sparkle— songs you can remember rather than you can vibe to. But Barns Courtney was definitely worth catching.
He doesn’t have an album out—just a single—so it will be interesting what Barns Courtney can do on a recording.
Remember his name. You may hear it again.
I give Fitz and the Tantrums at The Dome at the Toyota Oakdale on Nov. 11 four out of four stars.