A little over ten years ago, a newly-formed band caught its big break when they were fortuitously discovered by Adam Levine, who invited them to join his group, Maroon 5, on tour. Not long after, Fitz and the Tantrums played their first DC show, at the 9:30 Club. It’s fitting that their first gig in the District was on New Year’s Eve, because the party’s been raging ever since for the indie pop meets Neo soul band. And on Friday night, they graduated to playing The Anthem. Reflecting on their journey from struggling opener to powerhouse headliner, the band relished their moment in front of the crowd of thousands, at one point even becoming emotional about the city’s steadfast support of them from the very beginning, drawing out ‘the feels’ on their “All the Feels” Tour.
Easing us into the night was the new Twin XL. On the scene for not even a year-and-a-half yet, they’ve only released an EP to this point. But like the headliner of the night, they’ve discovered their sound and mastered the art of staying true to it, which is no small feat. Their set was so tight, there really weren’t any duds to wade through in search of the “hits.” Honestly, pick a random song of theirs and you’ll likely find yourself nodding your head and tapping your foot. This is unsurprising given the band’s collective talent for songwriting, as they’ve written or produced for such performers as Lindsey Stirling and All Time Low, among others. It’s hard to pinpoint any one song as a highlight because so many were expertly crafted, but the characteristic whistling in “Friends” and “Good” stood out from the rest, proving, like in Fitz and the Tantrum’s “The Walker”–also known for its whistling–that you don’t need to wait until the chorus of a song to come up with an earworm of a hook, you can bring it from the very first notes. If you were naive like me and didn’t know much about them, give Twin XL a chance because they’ll be headlining large venues like The Anthem before you know it. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
With the crowd sufficiently primed, the atmosphere during Fitz and the Tantrums was nothing short of special. For the full duration of their jam-packed 21-song set, the crowd was thoroughly engrossed in the music. Behind the fierce vocals of Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, almost every song brought with it an unrelenting dance beat. In fact, the pair several times throughout the night gathered center stage for a cute synchronized box step. Their energy was not only on another level, it was infectious. From the intensity of the singing and dancing, jumping and fist pumping, hand waving and clapping sweeping through the crowd, I could have sworn I was at a rave. Every song was a party. Scaggs, who is almost never not seen dancing, was the single greatest reason for this. The heart and soul of the group, she owns every moment she’s given. She’s so abundantly talented, from her stage presence to her beautiful soulful voice, she could easily make a name for herself as a solo artist one day. She’s the perfect complement to Fitzpatrick, giving the band’s sound that extra dimension that sets them apart.
The band covered a lot of ground with their set, delivering on mandatory hits such as “Out of My League,” “Moneygrabber,” “HandClap,” and “The Walker,” while promoting songs from their new album, “All the Feels,” notably singles “123456,” “I Need Help!,” and “I Just Wanna Shine.” Among the classics, “HandClap” was especially memorable as it provided a moment to shine for multi-instrumentalist James King. Equipped with two saxophones, the “sax man” stole the show as he alternated between instruments, even sprinkling in some drum work for good measure. As an unsung member–and co-founder–of the band, it was nice to see him in the spotlight, literally and figuratively. The song is also a great example of how well-conceived and produced the band’s music is. Whether it’s the back and forth of saxophone and clapping in “HandClap,” the whistling in “The Walker,” or the vocalizations bookending the chorus of “Spark,” there are an endless number of songs in their repertoire that are instantly recognizable absent a single lyric.
Beyond the singles on the new record, there were a few hidden gems that made the setlist as well. Aside from being a blatantly obvious example of song lyric product placement–“Case Logic!,” “OCD” offered a particularly catchy chorus that could make anyone nostalgic for the days of flipping through a CD wallet. “Maybe Yes,” characterized by a chest-thumping bass line, added a funky flair to the night. And finally, “Livin’ for the Weekend,” behind a markedly heavier rock tune, proved a great hype song for a Friday night. In fact, it was so much of a tone-setter, I’m almost shocked they didn’t begin their set with it.
As the night ended, Fitzpatrick and Scaggs took the opportunity to thank the crowd for their energy and for “being there” for them “since the very first show” at the 9:30 Club in 2009. It was clear in each of their voices that they’ve remained humble through their meteoric rise over the last decade, especially Scaggs, who nearly was brought to tears earlier while surveying the crowd. What better way to thank their fans and celebrate the moment than by concluding with their most energetic hit, “The Walker.” Personally, I didn’t get around to my first Fitz and the Tantrums experience until a few years after that 9:30 Club show, yet it was fun after all this time to see that they still end their sets with the same flair they did back then, showering the crowd with pink and white confetti. It made for a fitting end to Valentine’s Day, but even without it, you could already feel the love in the air that night.
FINAL GRADE: B+