Last Night: Fitz & The Tantrums At House Of Blues

Fitz & the Tantrums House of Blues Bronze Peacock Room April 18, 2011

Soul music is about power, yoking that gospel id to the pursuit of more worldly affairs, but it's also about subtlety. Grunt all you want, but smooth and steady wins the race (and wins over the ladies).

Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye could have told you that; Smokey Robinson, Daryl Hall and John Legend still can. Fitz & the Tantrums probably can't. Not yet.

The latest contestants in the retro-soul derby that also includes Eli "Paperboy" Reed, Mayer Hawthorne and this week's Billboard No. 1, Adele, the L.A.-based five-piece sandblasted a sold-out Bronze Peacock Room for about an hour Monday night, spewing Motown, Sly & the Family Stone and acid jazz like an uncapped deepwater oil rig.

Until the very end, It was all force and no finesse, dynamic with no dynamics. It was also loud as shit, the first show Aftermath can remember in a while that left our eardrums actually hurting.

It took 35 minutes before the band even thought about slowing it down, front man Michael Fitzpatrick requesting some "wet reverb" for "Tighter," a Bobby Blue Bland-ish song that was only a ballad compared to the fatback Bar-Kays funk of "Dear Mr. President" that preceded it.

Hair swooped over one side of his head like an early-'90s skater, Fitzpatrick gets by on his party-boy personality and boundless energy more than any great vocal skills. There was a lot of Springsteen in "Pickin' Up the Pieces" - lest we forget, The Boss is not what anyone would consider a crooner, and a big Motown fan in his own right.

Fitzpatrick's onstage foil, Noelle Scaggs, matched his kinetic output with Ike-and-Tina choreography, hip-hop call-and-response chanting and full-throated gospel vocals that made "6 a.m." a true tour de force.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray