April 27--Friday night's four-band bill at the Midland theater was also an ersatz prom, a reason for couples to haul out some old formal wear, get dressed up and revive their high school days.
So the mood was festive from the start, and by the time the headliner took the stage at 10:35 p.m., the 1,500-plus in the place were sufficiently wound up and ready to act informal: to sing-along and dance (many with drinks in hand) and issue some care-free adolescent behavior.
The headliners were Fitz and the Tantrums, a band from Los Angeles that is into revivals, too: of the kind of pop-soul that radio played in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Michael Fitzpatrick is their leader and namesake, but his enthusiastic vocal partner and tambourine-player, Noelle Scaggs, stole the show, stoking the energy all night, most demonstratively at the slightest sign of its flagging.
Anyone who hears the Tantrums' music and dismisses them as Hall & Oates knock-offs wouldn't be entirely out-of-bounds. The band has mastered a formula, and it is derivative, but the live execution is effective and arousing.
The Tantrums played some cuts off their second album, to be released in May, including their opener, "Keeping Our Eyes Out" and "Out of My League." And they covered the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." All that meshed seamlessly with tracks from their debut, "Pickin' Up the Pieces," now nearly 3-years-old: "Don't Gotta Work It Out," "Winds of Change" and "Breakin' the Chains of Love" all ignited big responses. But the biggest fireworks came at the end of "Money Grabber," when Fitzpatrick orchestrated some crowd participation that eventually detonated into an explosion of dancing and singing among most of the well-dressed crowd.
The Tantrums followed a set by the Lemonheads, who played as a trio led by the bearded, disheveled and charmingly distracted Evan Dando. They opened the 45-minute set with "Confetti" and then "Hospital" and "Style Lyrics": "Don't wanna get stoned/Don't not wanna get stoned." Dando had little to say to his audience. He didn't introduce himself or the band, though he did mention the year a few of the songs were recorded.
He played two songs solo/electric and lost most of the crowd during the second one ("The Outdoor Type"). Before "It's a Shame About Ray," he played a snippet of the guitar intro to Yes' "Roundabout," for some reason. He also played "Into Your Arms," which came out in 1993, but he failed to mention that.
The entertaining Beware of Darkness, a power trio from Los Angeles, preceded the Lemonheads. Its music covers a lot of ground: glam, speed-metal, campy pop-metal, stoner-rock/grunge. Lead singer Kyle Nicolaides has a voice tha takes some getting used to and, when it comes to rock-star moves, isn't above some melodrama. He kept the crowd involved throughout the 30-minute set.
The Lawrence band Quiet Corral welcomed the arriving prom-goers for about 20 minutes. They are part of the new-folk/rock movement that is producing more bands than it needs. But this one is as good as any I've seen, the Lumineers included.
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