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Maroon 5 openers Fitz & the Tantrums to bring on the soul

Given the incredible opportunity to tour with one of the most popular bands in the college scene and beyond, Los Angelesbased soulsters Fitz & the Tantrums are set to open for Maroon 5 at the Peoria Civic Center Theater Wednesday.

Armed with one EP, a memorable sound and a whole lot of heart, Fitz and all five of his tantrums hopped on board the Back To School Tour after Maroon 5 label mate K’NAAN cancelled all upcoming shows due to fatigue in late October.

After only 10 performances under their belts, Fitz & the Tantrums were invited to tour earlier this fall with Flogging Molly and Hepcat.

“As with so much that has happened with this band, it was just total serendipity,” singer Fitz said. “Everyone in the band is a total freak for soul and funk, and it just clicked instantly.”

Since the band is so young, the opportunity to tour with seasoned veterans Maroon 5 was one they instantly picked up on.

“This tour with Maroon 5 we are currently on is quickly becoming my favorite,” Fitz said. “All the guys in the band are so nice and supportive, and they put on such a great show.”

Fitz & the Tantrums’ EP, “Songs For A Break Up Vol. 1,” debuted in 2009, and is reminiscent of Motown and ‘60s soul, but with a modern twist. Think a more retro adaptation of the Killers, or maybe a more lazy-day “Room On Fire” by the Strokes.

“I started making the record in my living room cuz I didn’t have any money to go into a studio,” Fitz said. “ I got a hold of this amazing church organ for 50 bucks! It inspired so much creativity.”

In following the appropriately titled disc, the songs are all about the process of breaking up and the heartbreak it entails.

The first track, “Breakin’ The Chains Of Love,” was the first song the band wrote, thus inspiring the rest of the album. The deep saxophone by James King in the second song, “Winds Of Change,” truly adds flavor to the steady bass by Ethan Phillips and drums by John Wicks. As the true backbone of Fitz & the Tantrums, Wicks combines an authentic retro stiffness with just enough swing in his drumming to keep the rhythm going.

“Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” the third track, is the song Maroon 5 fans are really going to love. This is the song that makes the tour partnership make complete sense, so look forward to hearing this one live on Wednesday.

With an impressive tone and near perfect pitch, Fitz powers the lyrical emotion of the band alongside female vocalist Noelle Scaggs. A pretty addition to Fitz’s striking vocals, Scaggs definitely brings on the soul.

The fourth track on “Songs For A Break Up” is “We Don’t Need No Love Songs,” which sounds like a leisurely slow dance from 1955, in a good way. Jeremy Ruzumna, the band’s keyboardist, also gets to show off a little in this song. Though his part is simple, the deep organ is what makes the song tick. Alongside its laid back, airy guitar riffs, the song is just begging for a slew of Zippos to light up at the show.

The fifth and final track, “Darkest Street,” is the song that uses the most depth of sound. A solid horn section backs up Fitz’s emotional closing plea, urging his girl to come back one more time. Throughout most of the EP, Fitz uses the same echo effect on his vocals, but it’s just enough to stay pleasant.

Fitz says he truly hopes to inspire Bradley students at the show Wednesday, and by the end, to get us all dancing our hearts out with them.

“We bring the soul!” Fitz said. “We love playing live and winning an audience over that has never heard of us. We hope they have that great experience when you discover a new band that turns you on!”

When asked where the band would like to end up in the future, his answer was simple. “To keep doing this,” Fitz said. “There’s nothing like playing live. To get to follow your bliss in life? That’s pretty special. But I am just trying to stay in the moment and really enjoy all the amazing things that have happened this year.”

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