On the evening of April 14, people filed up the stairs into The Loft near Midtown in preparation to hear the new evolution of Motown music by Fitz and the Tantrums, opened up by bluesy styling of April Smith and the Great Picture Show. The night would make its slow evolution from a stomp along with an upright bass to a full blown dance party by the end of the evening.
When April Smith and the Great Picture Show stepped on stage in their ties and vests led by their vintage dress wearing front woman, a buzz began in the air. Soon an upright bass and ukulele came into sight and a stomp driven music began. As the band encouraged the audience to clap, a smooth vocal floated into the sound giving it that final mix between classy jazz and driving blues.
Though only having four members, the group had little in the way of instrumentation limitations. While the vocalist picked up and down the guitar throughout the performance, the guitar player switched amongst the electric guitar, ukulele and accordion. The bassist even mixed his act up between the upright and electric basses.
The group showed great versatility in musical ability and style all while giving a strong performance. Though there was minimal movement around the stage by the band they held a strong confidence that allowed them to give a demanding stage presence with minimal movement.
The band finished their set with a cover that may have come to a surprise to some. The band covered Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” before segwaying into their last song of the evening. With the crowd now warmed up the tension began to rise in anticipation for Fitz and the Tantrums.
After a break for equipment change, four men in skinny ties walked onto the stage and positioned themselves behind the drums, keyboard, bass and saxophone and began to lay down a piano driven rhythm. As the crowd began to shuffle their feet, lead singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs made their way onstage with an attitude to begin the vocals on “Don’t Gotta Work It Out.”
With this being only their second time performing in Atlanta and their first time headlining in the city, they were set out to make another great impression and did so with a great stage presence that not only awed the audience but involved them as well. While Scaggs chomped out rhythm on the tambourine she encouraged the crowd to move and even called out people who weren’t dancing. This occurred all while Fitzpatrick showed his presence with strong hand gestures and what would be considered an intense version of the running man dance in tune with the drums.
The soulful group played a couple of new tunes, including “Wake Up,” which they claimed they had written a mere two months earlier. This tune brought the two singers intimately close on stage as they played out their respective roles as lovers in the song.
This play on male against female war and love fueled not only many of the songs lyrically but in their performance aspect as well throughout the night. A lyrical call and response session pitted the males and females of the crowd against one another to see who could respond the loudest. The subjects of many of the songs dealt with love lost and wanted though done without becoming to poppy and keeping the upbeat style of the band.
Though the evening did stay up tempo for the most part it slowed down for a bit when Fitzpatrick called for “longer, wetter reverb” from the sound man. The song that followed was the band’s ballad “Tighter.” Though comparably slower than the rest of the set the band managed to keep it from dragging, allowing them to hop right back in to the fast paced set they had momentarily left. This temporary break however, displayed the band’s diversity and texture.
The band showed great strength musically. The bass and drums synced together well to lay down the funky rhythms necessary for the keyboardists and saxophonists to lay harmonies down on. Several strong keyboard solos could be found throughout the night including one by Fitzpatrick when he ran to the keyboards and simply took over sending the crowd into frenzy.
Though a strong band overall, Fitzpatrick is the key element that holds it all together. Not only is he the songwriter of the band he also supports the band on stage giving performance antics for other members of the band to play off of and work with. Though Scaggs seems to have to keep in check at times it appears he has his chaos on stage completely under control.
When the band announced they had finished their set without playing their hit “MoneyGrabber” the crowd knew an encore had to come. After patiently waiting several minutes the band came back on stage but to only surprise the crowd with a Eurythmics cover of “Sweet Dreams.” Keeping more true to the original than the Marilyn Manson cover the crowd seemed to approve. This was followed by the last and most anticipated song of the night, “MoneyGrabber.” As the crowd sang and danced along the band went through a few more stage antics before finally calling it an evening.
A night of funk and dance left the crowd their ears ringing and legs shaking as they left the building. The band stayed for a while at their merchandise booth encouraging people to come say hello while the opening band said their good-byes while people walked down the stairwell. Both quite kind gestures from bands that, with performances like the ones of that night, are sure to become larger headline acts.