Cities and Fitz and the Tantrums Kickoff US Tour at the National
The highly anticipated "Bright Futures" tour featuring Capital Cities and Fitz & The Tantrums kicked off with a bang in Richmond this past Sunday at The National. Featuring off-the-chart energy and intense instrumentation, each band successfully turned the packed National into a dancehall with a sold-out crowd absolutely losing their minds to two of 2013's hottest acts.
Both bands have been heavily promoting this upcoming tour and it's no surprise why as each band went all-out with their sets and made sure to open the tour on the best note possible, something Richmond's audience was more than happy to host.
Beat Club, an electro-pop group from Los Angeles, opened the night as the venue started to make its way towards capacity. The band's sound was a great lead-in to Capital Cities, but an even better contrast musically. The best thing about their music had to be their ability to lay the groove and explore the space around it in each song, and this made for a good introduction to the night's festivities.
For a band this young and mostly unknown, you'd think they'd almost be out of place opening on such a high profile tour. On the contrary though, the band's ability to be stage generals before a packed house who certainly didn't pay to see them was just astonishing. The highlight for Beat Club that night came with the ending song which was introduced as a "punk" song by singer Jeff Kite. "Punk" was right too as the song was a stark contrast to the band's set as well as the sets to come from each of the headliners.
As Kite forcefully shoved his body into bassist Jon Pancoast and the band delivered energy that just would have been wasted on their previous songs, the band caught the attention from the crowd who had almost written the band off as another throwaway indie-synth opener. Instead, the band's punk closer showed a level of intensity that most bands strive for and a level of depth for the band that had to be respected. It's easy to establish yourself with one sound, but to fit in completely with two different sounds in one set, well...not a lot of openers have that.
Capital Cities followed with a truly explosive set full of their electronic optimism and liveliness. It has to be noted that the band entered the stage to the classic 80s duet between Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville. It wasn't quite at the level of Christopher Turk singing in an elevator, but it was definitely a good way to lead into the set.
I have to admit that I'm always weary of electronic-heavy bands when they tour, but with a talented group of musicians backing them, the group on stage was able to breathe new life into songs that the audience had almost completely memorized. After the band whipped through their new single "Kangaroo Court," it was apparent that the ticket price was worth it for these musicians alone.
The group's core duo led the set with vigor that was almost telling of their desire to play their songs on the road as much as possible. Ryan Merchant handled the guitar work with an energy that remained subtle throughout most the set before exploding at just the right moment. Sebu Simonian manned the synthesizers as well as being the visual guide to each of his songs. His emotion came out through every note and movement and just watching him sing the hook on "Farrah Fawcett Hair" made the electronic music come to life more than ever.
Throughout the set, a number of highlights arose. The band's dance moves, the crowd being led in said dance moves, an amazing cover of "Stayin' Alive" that merged the chorus of "Undone - The Sweater Song" by Weezer, the crowd singing the call-and-response part of that 90s anthem, and many more. But really, two (well, technically three things) stick out from their whole set. The first was trumpet player Spencer Ludwig. I'm not trying to put down any performer part of Sunday's show from any band, but undoubtedly, Spencer was the single star of the entire night. From the moment his trumpet first blared on "Kangaroo Court" down to the random trumpet fills he would put into each song, the crowd loved every brass note that came from his instrument as well as every way his body moved to the music.
His energy was nearly unparalleled (except for maybe Tantrums' Noelle Scaggs) and he was feeling the music almost more than the people who created it themselves. He definitely added a charm to the set that made it intimate and amazing, something almost unheard of for electro-pop. Besides that, the highlights would be the set-ending performance of "Safe And Sound" and the remix/dance party that followed.
The moment the song started, the crowd couldn't get any louder with their screams. Well, that is until the trumpet melody hit. While the crowd knew every song and was with the band from "Origami" to "I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo," you could tell they were waiting to hear one of the year's biggest hits performed live before them. The band certainly didn't disappoint and with the crazy rave that the band demanded the audience partake in following the song, the crowd certainly wasn't going to forget it anytime soon.
It'd be easy to speculate that the crowd wouldn't have much left for Fitz & The Tantrums, but as the band entered the stage and opened their set with "Don't Gotta Work It Out," it was clear that Richmond still had plenty left they wanted to get out in screaming and dancing. With the band raging with each song, they revisited their debut album as well as introduced songs off their new album before a crowd that probably could have kept going well past midnight (Monday be damned).
The band definitely has compositions that were almost written to be performed live. Don't get me wrong; they're strong studio recordings, but backed by the instrumentation and passion of the band, the songs truly shine when played live. Songs like "Break The Walls" and "Spark" prove this and then some. The band just clearly likes to get lost in the music too and have pure fun, something they took full advantage on during a cover of "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These." The cover was simply amazing with so many things going on, but none was more amazing than saxophonist James King covering the memorable 80s riff in a crazy, up-tempo fashion that drove the band faster than any drum ever could.
Singer Michael Fitzpatrick delivered a high level performance for Richmond (capped off with him calling out members of the audience for refusing to partake in his encore demands), but it was his female counterpart Nicole Scaggs that really came off like something truly special. I swear to you, she did not stop moving their entire set.
Whether it was her hands furiously banging her tambourine or her feet constantly shuffling, the singer bounced around song after song after song as if she had an endless supply of fuel to keep her going. Scaggs has always added a different layer to the band's sound, but live, it's definitely turned up to 11 as she was the highlight each and every time she opened her mouth.
Scaggs may have been the band’s MVP, but the other five members were not far behind, each delivering something new and exciting to each composition. With the encore, the band really showed just how much they had won over the crowd.
As "Moneygrabber" began, the crowd came completely unglued for the umpteenth time as the band just became one with the groove of a song that truly put them on a map. With their new single "The Walker" closing out the night, the crowd kept the energy at that same level showing that the band is only getting better and making more and more fans around the world through great music and amazing live performances.
The "Bright Futures" tour had been heavily anticipated and promoted and it was all justified as it opened this past Sunday night. As confetti rained down during Fitz & The Tantrums' final song, the celebration seemed completely due for two bands whose sets were just too unique and good to be rated above the other. I can't recall the last time I went to a double headlining show and found myself not criticizing one band's act for not living up to the others.
Here, each band delivered a high octane performance that had the crowd moving from song one down to the final encore of the night. It speaks to the volume of each band's work as well as the overall wise decision to open this blockbuster tour in Richmond at The National. Capital Cities, Fitz & The Tantrums, and the Richmond crowd surely left everything on the floor of The National Sunday night and each band has a lot to live up to next time they come through. Somehow, I think they might pull it off.