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Fitz and the Tantrums, April Smith and the Great Picture Show, Club Congress, Saturday, April 23

April Smith and the Great Picture Show, a four-piece band from Brooklyn, has a sound that hearkens back to a time when speakeasies were sought-after relief from the daily grind, where wisps of smoke curled around velvet curtains and feathered hats.

Smith's voice is full and commanding, jazzy and spirited. They played "Terrible Things," a mischievous-sounding toe-tapper that was featured on the Weeds sixth-season promo. Their current radio single, "Colors," is an exuberant stomp-along that got the crowd dancing. A high point was a waltz about "d-bags," called "Stop Wondering," during which Smith showed off her charm and brazenness when it comes to dealing with people who take things too far.

The hair on my arms stood on end when she covered Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me." Shouts of, "I love you!" and, "You're awesome!" were heard throughout, and those who weren't making these declarations out loud surely agreed in silence. This band is going to be making it huge very soon.

Fitz and the Tantrums hail from Los Angeles. Suited-up Michael Fitzpatrick is a natural leader, a mighty force on the stage both in stature and attitude; he stands alongside harmonizing vocalist and sculpted tambourine-playing goddess Noelle Scaggs. The authenticity in their 1970s-emulating soulful musical style is confirmed by the lack of guitar and minimized percussion. The glue that holds together their rhythm-and-blues sound is keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna, with the rhythm section consisting of drummer John Wicks and bassist Joseph Karnes. The cherry on top is sax player James King.

In the sweltering heat onstage, Fitz and Scaggs worked the crowd like warmed putty. Choruses of, "Can't you see that you're mine?" and, "Wake up if you know what's good for you!" sent the audience into a frenzy. Scaggs proved to be a force one can't possibly ignore, and her dance moves—coupled with her solid sensual soul-singing—galvanized the crowd. They played a large selection of tracks from Pickin' Up the Pieces, their first LP, and covered "Steady, as She Goes" by the Raconteurs and "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics.

The audience clapped, danced and sang along with complete abandon. It was a smashingly terrific performance.

More by Mel Mason

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