Fitz and the Tantrums @ ACL Live (SHOW REVIEW)

It a materialistic, superficial, and soul-crushing truth within the music industry these days, that many top selling artists are simply a product of focus groups and an institutionalized media hype machine that allows these airbrushed and auto-tuned atrocities of musical integrity to appeal to their pre-destined demographics targeted by record companies. Yet, amidst the Mileys, Keshas, and Pitbulls of the industry, you are occasionally treated to a refreshing self-made act that grabs the spotlight, not by making a sexually provocative music videos or face-melting pyrotechnics, but with an increasingly scarce commodity within the industry that has almost become taboo: talent. Fitz and the Tantrums has plenty of it to go around. Formed on a whim in 2008 by Michael Fitzpatrick, Fitz and the Tantrums have brought their blend of indie pop and neo-soul to the masses with hits like “Moneygrabber” and “Out of My League.” Not only has the group revived the spirit of soul with their James Brown-inspired live show, but they also have a tireless work ethic that allows them to reach audiences around the world, including a particularly rowdy one at ACL Live on Thursday night.

Austin audiences are well-known for being reserved when it comes to dancing at shows and it usually takes a good amount of effort on the artist’s end to break through this reserved and jaded attitude that many Austinites cling too. Fitz and the Tantrums came out swinging Thursday night with their hit song “Get Away,” and the typical judgmental and static demeanor of the crowd went out the window immediately, replaced by a frenzied atmosphere of head nodding, arm waving, and booty shaking.

The sheer energy of Fitz and the Tantrums live can be intoxicating and overwhelming at times. Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs are the two vocalists in the six-piece, but both could easily claim the whole stage unto themselves. Noelle, who wore skin leather pants and a tank top, could have taped her own fitness video with her infinite energy. It is on songs like “Break the Wall” that you see and feel the magnitude of Fitz’s sound, which features anthemic lyrics and a sternum-rattling chorus that hits you like a battering ram.

Halfway through their set, Fitz played their only cover of the night, “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics, done with an animated, big band feel to it. Their song “Fools Gold” also stood out as a driving pop gem that was fortified with deft instrumentation. The epoch of the night could be found in “Out of My League” and the vocal duet of “Last Raindrop,” which were played back to back and brought the house down with their infectious hooks and intimacy.

“Money Grabber” is a megahit that was written to be played live and, as Fitz and the Tantrums are one of the best live bands touring these days, this might have been one of the greatest live songs I’ve ever seen. Fitz asked the entire crowd to get low to the ground in a “Shout”-wedding dance type of way before launching back into the chorus, literally shaking the foundations of the Moody Theater. Finally, the band closed out their performance with “The Walker,” a power rock anthem of Bon Jovi proportions, serving as an appropriate hyperbolic end to the night.

Calling Fitz and the Tantrums a good live band is like calling Lebron James a good free-throw shooter; it’s an understatement that doesn’t represent how truly unique and special this band is. All we can hope for is that somewhere deep within the ivory towers of the major record labels, someone is taking notes on how this whole ‘having talent’ thing might just be more fulfilling than the cookie-cutter alternative. -Lee Ackerley

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