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Review and photos by Lisa Occhino
After waiting for nearly a half hour at the Hynes stop for a B train to come, I hoped I hadn’t missed too much of Fitz & The Tantrums’ opening acts by the time I finally made it to Paradise Rock Club. I was particularly looking forward to seeing Ivy Levan, a fresh new face on the pop scene who caught my attention after “Hang Forever” popped up on Songza. (It’s now my new summer jam, and it’s featured on our July 2013 Spotify playlist – take a listen!) Unfortunately Ivy was already about halfway through her set by the time I walked in, but man am I glad that I got to catch as much of her performance as I did. This chick is mega-talented, completely commands the stage, and is model-status beautiful. (I just did a Google search out of curiosity, and she actually was a model before pursuing her music career!) Her gritty, soulful voice has been compared to superstars such as Amy Winehouse, Pink, and Christina Aguilera, but I also get a Lady Gaga-esque vibe from her – not the over-the-top theatrical aspect, but strictly in terms of vocal timbre. Ivy is sultry and full of attitude, and she turned it up to the max when she performed her single “Hot Damn” at the end of her set. Keep an eye on this one – she may still be in the up-and-coming phase now, but I think you’re going to be seeing a lot more of her in the coming months.
Maybe it was the fact that they had just followed Ivy, but indie rock band HAERTS struggled to hold my attention. The music itself is by no means bad, and Nini Fabi’s voice is pleasant, but for me it just didn’t stand out – it just sort of sunk into the bed of music behind her. Some of the drum grooves and synth lines were pretty catchy, but overall their set just wasn’t very memorable. To be fair, I’m not too familiar with their music, but at the same time I’ve been to several shows where unfamiliar bands are able to get their songs stuck in my head all night – and honestly, I just can’t say the same about HAERTS. It’s entirely possible that there was a different, more connected vibe between the band and the crowd on the floor, but from where I was standing on the balcony, I didn’t see a whole lot of audience communication going on.
Fitz and The Tantrums, on the other hand, have completely infectious music and know how to get a crowd pumped up. Michael Fitzpatrick is fortunate to have an extraordinary band backing him, especially multi-instrumentalist James King (saxophone, flute, keyboard, percussion, and guitar) and standout performer Noelle Scaggs (vocals and percussion). Their soul-infused pop manages to pay tribute to classic Motown artists without sounding like they’re trying to replicate it. I’m impressed by the way they maintain a unique sound that feels nostalgic for the older crowd and refreshing for everyone else.
The band was already known for being great entertainers, but touring with Bruno Mars (and having just opened for him at TD Garden two days prior) definitely didn’t hurt. Fitz is quite the frontman, but I found myself consistently being drawn to Noelle’s charisma and the incredible amount of energy she puts into her tambourine playing. One of my favorite moments was the playful interaction between the two singers when they alternated verses or harmonized. From my spot up on the balcony, I could see every single person on the floor smiling, singing along, and looking like they’re at a 933-person party that they never want to end.
“Out of My League” brought the room’s energy to a whole new level, and judging by his expression, there’s nothing that makes Fitz happier than a sea full of smiling faces and dancing bodies. On second thought, the only thing that might make him happier is when an audience relentlessly cheers, “Fitz! Fitz! Fitz!” for an encore the way these die-hard fans did. The group wisely chose to satisfy the crowd with “Moneygrabber” and “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” but somehow I walked out of the venue still craving more – the perfect way for a band to end the night.