Concert Review – Young the Giant, Fitz and the Tantrums & COIN at the LA Forum

I don’t attend all that many concerts, as I live in a desert – both literally and culturally. Despite the fact I live in the Coachella Valley – home to one of the most important music festivals on the planet – in order to see most musical acts under the age of 60, I must travel to Los Angeles. So, when I do see a concert, it’s a pretty big deal for me. On Saturday, August 10, I made the two and a half hour drive to West Los Angeles to see a fantastic lineup of bands at the historic Forum. (Former home of the L.A. Lakers, the Forum opened in 1967 but is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, due to its groundbreaking engineering and structural design.)

It was a great double bill consisting of Young the Giant and Fitz and the Tantrums, with COIN opening. I’d long wanted to see Fitz and the Tantrums in concert, but had never gotten around to it, so when I saw they were performing with another of my favorites Young the Giant, I wasted no time getting tickets. The Forum seats approximately 17,500, and this show appeared to be nearly sold out.

LA Forum
The Los Angeles Forum

The concert started promptly at 7:00 pm when COIN took to the stage and immediately got the audience revved up with their high-energy alternative pop/rock. I wasn’t very familiar with their music, but when I saw in advance they were the opening act, I checked out several of their songs and really liked their sound. Based in Nashville, COIN formed in 2012, and currently consists of Chase Lawrence on lead vocals & synthesizers, Ryan Winnen on drums, and Joe Memmel on lead guitar & backing vocals. Since 2018, they’ve been joined on their tours by bassist Matt Martin.

The stage was set up with a series of vertical panels upon which various graphics and light displays were projected for all three acts. COIN’s visuals were simple, consisting only of the word “@coin” that would appear one line at a time on five of the panels, as if repeatedly typed on a keyboard and displayed on a computer screen. Once all five panels were filled with @coin, the words would disappear, then the process was repeated over and over. It was kind of interesting at first, but eventually grew rather tiresome.

COIN-Forum
COIN

COIN’s music and performance, however, were anything but, as their catchy, upbeat music and lively on-stage personas were quite entertaining, especially their animated front man Chase Lawrence, who bounded about the stage as he sang. They started their set with their dance-pop hit “Growing Pains”, then followed with “Simple Romance”, “Boyfriend”, and their latest single “Crash My Car” – all terrific songs. Lawrence engaged the audience a bit between songs and they continued with “Cemetery”, “I Want it All” and their big hit “Talk Too Much”, finally ending with “Fingers Crossed”. Here’s their exuberant performance of “Boyfriend” that I managed to film most of:

After a brief intermission, Fitz and the Tantrums made their entrance onto the stage to thunderous applause, and quickly got the crowd’s blood pumping with the foot-stomping “Get Right Back”, one of the tracks from their third self-titled album Fitz and the Tantrums. Before I get into their performance, I’ll provide a bit of background and personal perspective.

Fitz & the Tantrums-Forum
Fitz and the Tantrums

The Los Angeles-based band consists of front man/vocalist Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, the lovely and talented Noelle Scaggs (vocals & percussion), saxophonist extraordinaire James King, as well as Joseph Karnes (bass), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), and John Wicks (drums). They formed in 2008, but the first time I learned about them was in late summer 2013, when I heard their fantastic synth-pop ear worm “Out of My League”. I quickly fell head over heels in love with it, becoming an instant fan of theirs, and caught myself up on their back catalog of songs that were included on their debut album Pickin’ Up the Pieces, as well as purchasing their second album More Than Just a Dream, which I played nearly to death for the next several months.

Their early songs were described as neo soul, somewhat of a modern twist on the classic Motown sound, but with indie and jazz overtones that gave their music a distinctive sound. A particularly noteworthy aspect of their music is that they have no guitarist! Their sound took on more of a pop sensibility on More Than Just a Dream, generating a little backlash from some of their earliest die-hard fans. But overall, it’s an outstanding album containing some great songs like “Out of My League” and “The Walker”, both of which reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, as well as some other standouts like the soulful “6am” and “Break the Walls”, both of which prominently feature Noelle’s wonderful vocals.

In early 2016, they released “Hand Clap”, the lead single from their self-titled third album, and I was immediately underwhelmed. The song was too poppy and formula for my taste, and I was somewhat disappointed in the new direction their sound was taking. Also, Noelle’s vocals were not being utilized nearly enough. My feelings about the third album are mixed, but there are a few gems like the aforementioned “Get Right Back” and “Burn It Down”. I’ve softened a bit on “Hand Clap”, as it’s so damned catchy, but I still think it’s a mediocre song. OK, now back to the show!

Fitz and the Tantrums kept the energy flowing as they launched into the hard-rocking “Spark” from More Than Just a Dream, then sang one of their earliest songs “Don’t Gotta Work it Out”, which they followed with “Out of My League”, still one of my personal favorites. In between songs, Fitz was very engaging, sharing his thoughts and providing tidbits of background about the band and the songs they performed. He’s now 49 years old, but exudes a more youthful demeanor on stage.

Fitz & the Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums

The vertical panels that previously displayed @coin during their set now displayed colorful, rapidly-changing imagery and graphics. Fitz and the Tantrums played for more than an hour, performing 18 songs, including crowd favorite “Moneygrabber”, five from More Than Just a Dream, five from Fitz and the Tantrums, and six from their upcoming fourth album All the Feels, due out in September. One of the tracks they performed from that album was the lead single “123456”, which I didn’t much care for when I first heard it, but it sounded better live. In fact, I found that many of their more recent songs sounded much better live, which is perhaps a testament to their engaging on-stage personalities and musicality. At the very least, those attributes certainly make for a highly entertaining and enjoyable live performance, and I loved every second of theirs!

They closed with a rousing performance of the deliriously catchy “The Walker”. I loved how the home town crowd cheered when Fitz sang the line “I wake up to the City of Angels“.

The intermission following Fitz and the Tantrums’ performance was longer, giving us ample time to use the restroom, get some obscenely overpriced adult beverages, and for our excitement to build in anticipation of seeing the headliners Young the Giant. When they finally appeared on stage, the crowd roared and cheered with delight. They opened their set with “Oblivion” from their fourth and most recent album Mirror Master, then performed one of my favorites “Something to Believe In”, from their critically acclaimed 2016 third album Home of the Strange. Next up was their current single “Heat of the Summer”, another terrific song from Mirror Master.

Young the Giant
Young the Giant

Young the Giant started out in 2004 as a band called The Jakes, with two of the current founding members guitarist Jacob Tilley and vocalist Sameer Gadhia, when they were high school students in Irvine, California. They changed their name in 2010 to Young the Giant while recording their debut album of the same name, and have never looked back. In addition to Tilley and Gadhia, the current lineup includes Eric Cannata (guitar), Payam Doostzadeh (bass), and Francois Comtois (drums). They’re an amazing and talented collective of musicians with a totally unique sound unlike no other, thanks to their exquisite instrumentation and also Gadhia’s gorgeous and distinctive vocal style.

He’s also a strikingly handsome man, with a charismatic on-stage persona. His athletic and sometimes even flamboyant body movements were at times quirky, but always riveting. He appeared on stage wearing a long saffron-colored jacket over dark trousers, and danced about the stage, his jacket flowing about him as he sang. They continued with the beautiful track “Apartment” from their first album Young the Giant, then followed with four tracks from Home of the Strange – “Amerika”, “Nothing’s Over”, “Home of the Strange” and “Titus Was Born”. Next up was the lovely “Firelight” from Mind Over Matter, followed by one of their signature songs and crowd favorite “Cough Syrup”.

They performed three more songs, then said ‘Goodnight’ and walked off stage. They still had not performed some of their biggest hits, so I knew (hoped) they’d return for an encore. They soon reappeared, Gadhia now wearing a sparkly dark blue cape as they sang the song I’d been dying to hear them perform, the beautiful “Superposition.” They followed with the bouncy dance number “Tightrope”, then the sexy “Silvertongue” before closing their set with an electrifying performance of their hard-hitting first single “My Body”, at which point the crowd went wild.

I found it interesting that they performed six songs from each of their two most recent albums, but only three from Young the Giant and two from Mind Over Matter. I was a little disappointed they didn’t perform one of my favorite songs of theirs, the hard-rocking “It’s About Time”. That said, I loved hearing all the songs they did perform, and enjoyed their set immensely. In fact, I love them and their music even more after seeing them live, which is something I think most, if not all, of us feel when seeing artists and bands we like in concert. It’s a special thing to see our favorite artists and bands play their music live, giving us a greater connection to them and their music.

Top 50 Songs of 2011

2011 saw the release of two incredible albums by two of my favorite artists, Adele’s epic masterpiece “21” and Foster the People’s debut album “Torches.” The best song of the year is without doubt “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele’s triumphant song of betrayal, heartbreak and ultimate survival. Foster the People have three songs in my top 10, beginning with “Pumped Up Kicks,” with it’s dark message sharply contrasting with a peppy upbeat melody.

Here are my Top 50 favorite songs of 2011:

1. ROLLING IN THE DEEP – Adele

2. PUMPED UP KICKS – Foster the People
3. MOVES LIKE JAGGER – Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera
4. STEREO HEARTS – Gym Class Heroes featuring Adam Levine
5. READY TO GO – Panic! At the Disco
6. RAISE YOUR GLASS – P!nk
7. HOUDINI – Foster the People
8. HELENA BEAT – Foster the People
9. SOMEONE LIKE YOU – Adele
10. FIREWORK – Katy Perry
11. PERFECT – P!nk
12. EVERY TEARDROP IS A WATERFALL – Coldplay
13. ADOLESCENTS – Incubus
14. PARTY ROCK ANTHEM – LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
15. CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT – Foster the People
16. HOWLIN’ FOR YOU – The Black Keys
17. GOOD LIFE – OneRepublic
18. SHAKE ME DOWN – Cage the Elephant
19. MONEYGRABBER – Fitz & the Tantrums
20. ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD – Rihanna
21. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE – Bruno Mars
22. JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH – The Black-Eyed Peas
23. FOR THE FIRST TIME – The Script
24. BORN THIS WAY – Lady Gaga
25. MY BODY – Young the Giant
26. THE LAZY SONG – Bruno Mars
27. GIVE ME EVERYTHING – Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afro jack & Nayer
28. GRENADE – Bruno Mars
29. WHAT’S MY NAME? – Rihanna featuring Drake
30. TONIGHT, TONIGHT – Hot Chelle Rae
31. THE CAVE – Mumford & Sons
32. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP – Andy Grammer
33. WALK – Foo Fighters
34. WAITING FOR THE END – Linkin Park
35. RHYTHM OF LOVE – Plain White T’s
36. DON’T YOU WANNA STAY – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
37. DON’T GOTTA WORK IT OUT – Fitz & the Tantrums
38. THE ADVENTURES OF RAIN DANCE MAGGIE – Red Hot Chili Peppers
39. DOG DAYS ARE OVER – Florence + the Machine
40. THE SOUND OF WINTER – Bush
41. THE EDGE OF GLORY – Lady Gaga
42. YOU AND I – Lady Gaga
43. LAST FRIDAY NIGHT (T.G.I.F.) – Katy Perry
44. UNDISCLOSED DESIRES – Muse
45. YOU ARE A TOURIST – Death Cab for Cutie
46. IF I DIE YOUNG – The Band Perry
47. NOTHING – The Script
48. WITHOUT YOU – David Guetta featuring Usher
49. JUST A KISS – Lady Antebellum
50. NEVER GONNA LEAVE THIS BED – Maroon 5

Top 50 Songs of 2013

A number of talented alternative, indie rock and hip hop bands and artists emerged on the music scene in 2013, including Lorde, The Neighbourhood, Capital Cities, Bastille, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Lana Del Rey. Other established artists such as P!nk, OneRepublic, Bruno Mars, Muse, Fitz & the Tantrums, Rihanna and Fall Out Boy also produced some memorable songs. My pick for the best song of 2013 is “Sweater Weather,” the achingly beautiful song of young love and lust by The Neighbourhood.

1. SWEATER WEATHER – The Neighbourhood

2. CAN’T HOLD US – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton
3. RADIOACTIVE – Imagine Dragons
4. SAFE AND SOUND – Capital Cities
5. OUT OF MY LEAGUE – Fitz & the Tantrums
6. JUST GIVE ME A REASON – P!nk featuring Nate Ruess
7. LOCKED OUT OF HEAVEN – Bruno Mars
8. COUNTING STARS – OneRepublic
9. MADNESS – Muse
10. ROYALS – Lorde
11. THRIFT SHOP – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
12. BLURRED LINES – Robin Thicke + Pharrell + T.I.
13. HO HEY – The Lumineers
14. WAKE ME UP! – Avicii
15. STAY – Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko
16. GET LUCKY -Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
17. LITTLE TALKS – Of Monsters and Men
18. DON’T YOU WORRY CHILD – Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin
19. IT’S TIME – Imagine Dragons
20. ELEPHANT – Tame Impala
21. CARRY ON – fun.
22. WHEN I WAS YOUR MAN – Bruno Mars
23. WAYS TO GO – Grouplove
24. POMPEII – Bastille
25. I WILL WAIT – Mumford & Sons
26. SUMMERTIME SADNESS – Lana Del Rey
27. CATCH MY BREATH – Kelly Clarkson
28. MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK – Fall Out Boy
29. DAYLIGHT – Maroon 5
30. MIRRORS – Justin Timberlake
31. DEMONS – Imagine Dragons
32. TROJANS – Atlas Genius
33. ROAR – Katy Perry
34. MISS JACKSON – Panic! At the Disco
35. TREASURE – Bruno Mars
36. CLARITY – Zedd featuring Foxes
37. HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME – Drake
38. THE MONSTER – Rihanna + Eminem
39. TAKE BACK THE NIGHT – Justin Timberlake
40. HARLEM – New Politics
41. SAIL – AWOLNATION
42. LEADER OF THE BROKEN HEARTS – Papa Roach
43. I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE – Taylor Swift
44. LOVE SOMEBODY – Maroon 5
45. A LIGHT THAT NEVER COMES – Linkin Park
46. SAME LOVE – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert
47. BRAVE – Sara Bareilles
48. SWEET NOTHING – Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch
49. DIAMONDS – Rihanna
50. TRY – P!nk

Top 100 Songs of 2014

2014 was an incredible year for music, especially alternative and indie rock. In my opinion, it was the best year for music since 1990, and I was actually hard-pressed to limit my list to only 100 songs. A number of great new albums were released, including “Ghost Stories” from Coldplay, “Supermodel” from Foster the People, “Turn Blue” from The Black Keys, “X” from Ed Sheeran, “Morning Phase” from Beck, and “In the Lonely Hour” from Sam Smith.

My favorite song is “Love Me Again” from John Newman, an amazingly talented soulful-voiced singer from Britain who has one of the best and most unique voices around today. He sings of the hurt he caused his lover, then passionately pleads for forgiveness to a driving breakbeat with powerful organ, drums and piano. The song is a musical masterpiece that was underrated in the U.S. It was released in 2013, but peaked on the charts during the first few months of 2014, so ends up on my list for that year.

Here is my list of the 100 best songs of 2014:

1. LOVE ME AGAIN – John Newman

2. DO I WANNA KNOW? – Arctic Monkeys

3. COME A LITTLE CLOSER – Cage the Elephant

4. A SKY FULL OF STARS – Coldplay

5. FEVER – The Black Keys

6. HAPPY – Pharrell Williams

7. COMING OF AGE – Foster the People

8. THE WALKER – Fitz & the Tantrums

9. RIPTIDE – Vance Joy

10. TAKE ME TO CHURCH – Hozier

11. POMPEII – Bastille

12. SEASONS CHANGE (WAITING ON YOU) – Future Islands

13. MAGIC – Coldplay

14. BLAME – Calvin Harris featuring John Newman

15. CHANDELIER – Sia

16. PSEUDOLOGIA FANTASTICA – Foster the People

17. RED EYES – The War on Drugs

18. COME WITH ME NOW – KONGOS

19. STOLEN DANCE – Milky Chance

20. BEST FRIEND – Foster the People

21. TEAM – Lorde
22. SING – Ed Sheeran
23. BAD BLOOD – Bastille
24. I WANNA GET BETTER – Bleachers
25. SLEEPING WITH A FRIEND – Neon Trees
26. LOVE RUNS OUT – OneRepublic
27. WHY’D YOU ONLY CALL ME WHEN YOU’RE HIGH – Arctic Monkeys
28. GIANTS – Bear Hands
29. AFRAID – The Neighbourhood
30. STAY WITH ME – Sam Smith
31. BEST DAY OF MY LIFE – American Authors
32. SOMETHING FROM NOTHING – Foo Fighters
33. DON’T – Ed Sheeran
34. COUNTING STARS – OneRepublic
35. MY SWEET SUMMER – Dirty Heads
36. IT’S ABOUT TIME – Young the Giant
37. SOUTHERN SUN – Boy and Bear
38. DANGEROUS – Big Data featuring Joywave
39. LEFT HAND FREE – Alt-J
40. CAR RADIO – twenty one pilots
41. FALL IN LOVE – Phantogram
42. BLUE MOON – Beck
43. LATCH – Disclosure featuring Sam Smith
44. HABITS (STAY HIGH) – Tove Lo
45. WHO NEEDS YOU – The Orwells
46. RATHER BE – Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne
47. BACK TO THE SHACK – Weezer
48. SUMMER – Calvin Harris
49. CENTURIES – Fall Out Boy
50. ALL OF ME – John Legend
51. THUNDER CLATTER – Wild Cub
52. LAZARETTO – Jack White
53. GIRLS/BOYS/GIRLS – Panic! At the Disco
54. I’M ONLY JOKING – KONGOS
55. LA LA LA – Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith
56. FOOLS GOLD – Fitz & the Tantrums
57. CARDIAC ARREST – Big Suns
58. MIDNIGHT – Coldplay
59. TRUE LOVE – Coldplay
60. THIS IS GOSPEL – Panic! At the Disco
61. WAIT FOR ME – Kings of Leon
62. UNBELIEVERS – Vampire Weekend
63. DIGITAL WITNESS – St. Vincent
64. STORY OF MY LIFE – One Direction
65. RUDE – Magic!
66. AM I WRONG? – Nico & Vinz
67. TIMBER – Pitbull featuring Ke$ha
68. GOTTA GET AWAY – The Black Keys
69. CHOCOLATE – The 1975
70. MAPS – Maroon 5
71. COOL KIDS – Echosmith
72. LOVE DON’T DIE – The Fray
73. SAY SOMETHING – Great Big World with Christina Aguilera
74. AFTERLIFE – Arcade Fire
75. WEST COAST – Lana Del Rey
76. GIMME SOMETHING GOOD – Ryan Adams
77. TALK DIRTY – Jason Derulo
78. ALL THE RAGE BACK HOME – Interpol
79. NOT A BAD THING – Justin Timberlake
80. BOOM CLAP – Charlie XCX
81. DO OR DIE – 30 Seconds to Mars
82. SUPERHEROES – The Script
83. DO YOU – Spoon
84. ALL ABOUT THAT BASS – Meghan Trainor
84. ANIMALS – Maroon 5
86. BURN – Ellie Goulding
87. ONE MINUTE MORE – Capital Cities
88. GIRLS CHASE BOYS – Ingrid Michaelson
89. FLAWS – Bastille
90. LET HER GO – Passenger
91. WEEKEND – Priory
92. HEY BROTHER – Avicii
93. MIND OVER MATTER – Young the Giant
94. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT – Cage the Elephant
95. SIRENS – Pearl Jam
96. I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE ANYMORE – Rise Against
97. ANGEL IN BLUE JEANS – Train
98. YOUNG GIRLS – Bruno Mars
99. AIN’T IT FUN – Paramore
100. JUST ONE OF THE GUYS – Jenny Lewis