Upcoming You Oughta Know artist Fitz and the Tantrums stopped by VH1’s NYC offices this afternoon for an exclusive, four-song live set. You Oughta Know Live got it all on tape and we’ll be sharing that with you all shortly, so stay tuned, but here’s a little bit about what to expect:
- Fitz and the Tantrums are funky as all get out. They get compared to the Motown sound a lot, and Fitz looks 60s-Detroit-sharp, a bit like Michael Keaton in costume as “Modern Love”-era David Bowie. But that’s way off – ”the sextet are southern-soul Stax cats through and through. They’re sharp, to be sure, but Joseph Karnes’s walking basslines and skilled drumming from John Wicks provide a looser rhythm.
- They don’t have a guitarist; they don’t need a guitarist. Briefly (as in his solo on “Dear Mr. President”) saxophonist James King takes the sonic space of the guitarist, but this organ-bass-sax funk band sounds plenty full as-is.
- Speaking of the organ, Fitz makes much of his vintage organ in the band’s origin story, but sometimes authenticity is overrated: Jeremy Ruzumna sounded just as good on a Nord Electro 3.
- The band opened and closed with spurned-lover songs (“Don’t Gotta Work It Out” and single “MoneyGrabber,” respectively) but also played the socially conscious (if a bit blunt in its title) “Dear Mr. President” and the melancholy but romantic “L.O.V.”
- “L.O.V.” opens with the line “I don’t believe in the power of love when the world is crumbling down.” Fitz’s narrator may be taking a shot at Huey Lewis, but he’s also pleading for the heart of someone – ”the “you” whose “fears” are keeping the “you” and the “I” apart. Love is real, but it’s not magic. It’s quotidian.
- What is magic is the way Fitz and co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs can get even a tiny lunchtime lobby crowd lively enough to grin and clap along. Their energy steamrolls workplace inhibitions, especially when “Dear Mr. President” goes into double-time, or “L.O.V.” hits its organ breakdown. And do they ever commit. Between songs, Fitz took a swig of water and commented wryly on the energy he’d expended in the set: “Now I can eat whatever I want today.”
Look for video from our Fitz and the Tantrums You Oughta Know Live set to go live soon. You’ll see it here first, natch!
Setlist: “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” / “Dear Mr. President” / “L.O.V.” / “MoneyGrabber”