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FLC - classic and fantastic.
After 5 years the Fun Lovin Criminals are back in Bristol, and by the turn out of the crowd it looks like it's been way too long.
The band took to the stage at around 9.30pm, suited and booted as usual. By this time the crowd were raring to go after an opening set from the Chemists.
At 'a half past rock and roll o'clock', they started with probably their most famous joint 'scooby snacks'. This had the people in a moshing frenzy, leaving the cooler customers at the back to prop up the bar and enjoy the view. They then slid into some stuff from the new album 'Classic Fantastic' (Mars, Jimi Choo), which looked to be just as popular as their successful hits 'Loco' and 'Korean Bodega'.
The band's style can only be described as original. A mix of funk, rap, rock, blues and even jazz. One minute the audience will be rocking out to the heavy riffs in 'Tenth Street', then chillin' with a dooby to 'Smoke 'em'. A real mix of styles which makes for an unbelievable live experience.
Huey stays in one spot for most of the set. Cruising along his guitar strings, quipping one liners and witty stories..Crooning out that unmistakeable sound, the hum of his dulcit tones cooler and smoother than a freshly waxed polar bear.
Their NY style brings the atmosphere of the academy to a whole new level. The smoky lit bar, the steel cages which separate the floor levels, then hearing that strong gangster twang. Makes you feel you are stood in a dark and dingy bar in the middle of Yonkers in danger of being caught in a stick up. You can take the boys out of New York......
They finish up the set. After moments of chanting and foot-stomping encouragement, they are back on stage to end with the more than appropriate 'Fun Lovin' Criminals'. New York's finest surely gave Bristol a 'big night out' and we thank them for giving us a bite of their big apple.
Miserable skin heads, phantom trains and band necks: Or the story of three friends going to see the Fun Lovin’ Criminals at Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 15/03/2001. The day started off strangely, my first friend (Who I will call Rixie) heading off from University to New Street station to begin our trip to see our favourite gangsters. At New Street the fun began. We encountered our first phantom train of the day. Sitting quite happily waiting for our train to Wolverhampton, one to Walsall mysteriously turned up instead. Now, while Rixie and I may tease our friends from Wolverhampton and Walsall that the two places are the same (Wolverhampsall), we didn’t want to risk missing the gig just to prove a point. A glance at the information monitor told us that our train had just been forgotten about and we should try and find another one. This we did and actually managed to make it to Wolverhampton early despite spending over 45 minutes hanging round New Street. When we got to Wolverhampton (Having passed an industrial unit called Walsall Metals just before entering the station, confirming our suspicions) we spent some slightly less quality time hanging Wolverhampton station waiting for the final friend (Who I will call John) in the quite expensive café. One packet of crisps and 15 minutes later John turned up and we took off to the nearest cheap pub at great speed. A Wetherspoons on the way from the station to the civic somewhat inexplicably called “The Moon Under Water”. We grabbed a window seat (Nice view of the car park, highly recommended) sat down to get some much needed food and drink before the gig. We all ended up having a Wetherburger: onion rings, chips, salad, a burger (I had a BBQ chicken one – very nice) and a beer (Or coke if your Rixie) for £3.49. I merely mention this because it proves to be an issue later on. Anyway, we whiled away the time before heading down to the civic in the pub discussing music.
Twenty minutes after the doors had opened (And the queues had gone, hopefully at least) we set off for the civic. Once I had survived being searched by a ‘confused by my wallet’ bouncer we made it in! First impressions were that the place hadn’t changed since I was last there (Summer 2000, the Bluetones) but then I wasn’t really expecting any changes – so that’s OK then. We set off in search of our seats, a first for me as I’ve always been standing at any gig I’ve been to. As the Fun Lovin’ Criminals are quite a laid back band we decided to go for seats. This meant we could quite happily go and have a big meal before the gig. It meant we could wear jackets to keep the weather out. It meant that we could bring wallets along without worrying about loosing them in the crush. We went upstairs only to be set back down by a security guard. This meant that we were going to be down on the floor mixing it with all the maniacs with full stomachs, coats and valuables. In the complete opposite to our normal gig tactics of heading for the stage as fast as possible and mooched around at the back near the mixer. Something I found quite interesting as a semi-pro sound engineer, but I promise to not to go on about it and bore you to death more than I already have – I mean, over 500 words and the gig hasn’t started yet! For some reason the DJ at the civic decided that as we liked FLC we were big hip hop fans and played hip hop constantly at us while we were waiting for the gig to start. Understandably we started looking round for our own source of entertainment and I noticed that the oh so 70’s purple mixed with brown paint work had disappeared from the top level, where the seats are, and had been replaced with some strange white and yellow art deco cubist style scribblings – seems that some changes had been made after all. By now the hall was filling up a lot and I performed my g
ood deed of the year by reuniting two friends who had got separated, I actually got thanked so maybe I’ll do another one later in the year. Anyway, as the hall filled up John and I were discussing previous trips to the civic for the benefit of Rixie, who hadn’t been before. When we commented on how hot it was going to get Rixie pointed out that the hall had good air conditioning. This came as a bit of a surprise as the hall doesn’t have air conditioning. Or at least it didn’t, it was pointed out to me that the huge two meter diameter vents all over the place were for air conditioning. This really is a great development for the civic. At previous gigs (Where I was wearing a lot less – just a German army shirt with any important articles attached to me by a solid lump of metal) it’s got so hot I’ve ended up looking like I’ve had a shower and got so dehydrated that I end up getting cramp. While we were discussing just how great the civic gaining air con was the lights began to dim – stuff was about to happen! Yes 899 words in and finally the gig starts – if you’re still here you have stamina – I salute you! A guy who looked like a stage hand wandered on but I could only see his head and so failed to notice he carried a big boom box on stage with him. It was at this point I realised I was just about the shortest person in the audience and if I wanted to see what was going on I was going to have to spend several hours craning my neck. Oh well, that’s the price I pay for not being at the front. The mysterious stage hand look alike introduced himself as a street performer from LA and then told a little story, which I will briefly recap here for you. He was playing on a street corner when the police descended on him, confiscated his boom box and gave him a $100 fine. The Fun Lovin’ Criminals were in the audience and came to his rescue, paying his fine and buying him a new b
oom box. They had him open up at a club they played and as that went very well they took him on their tour of the UK. Now, this guy’s performance was something else. He played karaoke versions of songs like Kung Fu Fighting coming on like an American John Shuttleworth and looking like a young Beck. But that’s not all, he danced round the stage like you do when you’re listening to music by yourself and you know no one is looking. Bonkers and without a doubt the most entertaining support act I have ever seen. After four songs he went off, the lights stayed off and the DJ began playing music again. Inexplicably though he was now playing songs like Song 2 and Sweet Home Alabama. Our minds duly boggled. Finally though, at 9pm the moment we were waiting for finally came as Huey (Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Lap Steel guitar (!), Fast (Everything the others don’t do) and Mackie (Drums) took to the stage and launched into a manicly fast version of Dickholder from their latest album, Loco. Now, they played for over two hours and while I’m pretty sure I’ve remembered all the songs I can’t remember the order to well – so I’m just going to discuss a few highlights. First up, here’s the set list. Where the bums go Loco The biz Run daddy run Half a block Swashbucklin' in brooklyn Dick holder Little song Up on the hill Love unlimited Korean bodega 10th street Southside Big night out All for self Mini bar blues The fun lovin' criminal Scooby snacks Bombin' the L King of new york We have all the time in the world Coney island girl Where the Bums Go was great, the crowd woaoaoooooing along with Huey like being silent was going out of fashion while Loco provided one of the schmoovest grooves of the night. Big Night Out’s chorus was another great sing along moment with the crowd joining
in for full effect. The Biz was a bit disappointing, but then I don’t like the album version so it’s not a huge surprise – it was an improvement though on the album version though. Unlike Up on the Hill, which really suffered from not having a sax player to perform the great sax part. Southside was great though, they really turned up the rock element for this one – Huey proclaiming “This is the heavy metal song, no ***** about cats or anything” before blasting into the intro. Obvious crowd favourites were The Fun Lovin’ Criminal (Featuring bass player Fast playing one handed trumpet and mouth organ – the man has talent!) and Scooby Snacks, slightly rewritten to reflect the change in line up the band went through a year or so ago. Coney Island Girl wasn’t overly superb though, the played it in a heavy metal style, and while I do very much like my metal – the song lost all the gangster flamenco subtleties it had before. A classic crowd moment though was when they played Love Unlimited, with the crowd taking over as backing vocalists for the echo parts. Superb! The band are without a doubt, very talented. Huey makes everything he does look incredibly easy and seems to produce guitar solo’s out of thin air. He’s also one of the best front men ever, when the band went off before the encore (Which I really hate, why can’t they just stay and play more songs?) the crowd were chanting “Huey” rather than the band name as they tend to do at other concerts. Fast meanwhile was quite a quiet, menacing presence on stage. Standing over six foot tall with slicked back hair you get the feeling he was the guy in the band you really didn’t want to annoy. Not saying much unlike Huey who had a great banter with the crowd (More on this later) he did all his communicating in the songs. Whether gently playing the keyboard, bashing the hell out of his bass, playing trumpet one
handed or providing violent backing vocals (Especially the “Dee” on Big Night Out) he was damn impressive. Certainly impressed me anyway! Mackie meanwhile had an even less active role than the others. Acting like a drumming robot he never seemed to get into it as much as the other two, apart from when he shot Huey. Yes – shot Huey! Half way through the gig the band had a rest from playing and instead did a little thing called “Huey’s acting school”. This consisted of the scene from Starwars where Darth kills Obi Wan. Only with a difference. Darth was played by Robert DeNiro played by Huey, while Obi Wan was played Al Pacino played by a member of the DiFontaine family. Suffice to say it was mad, Fast provided sound effects on keyboard while the two ‘actors’ entertained the crowd. Culminating with Mackie walking on and shooting Obi Wan (Huey’s on ‘parole’ you see, gotta behave). The only thing I haven’t covered much is the banter between the crowd and Huey. Mainly because Ciao would kick me off if I wrote it down – suffice to say it’s amusing! Anyway, that’s the gig over – but we still have to get home. We still have to face the trains once more! It took Rixie and I four attempts to get on a train. Yes, four! The others just disappeared, never turned up. The end result was we missed out last bus back and had to get a taxi. Only our favourite local taxi firm wasn’t running that night, so we had to go and find a black cab (Hate them) which was going to be an expensive ride home. It was worth all the hassle though to see the band, without a doubt, it was the most entertaining gig I have ever been to – if you ever have a chance to see the Fun Lovin’ Criminals live – take it! PS – Don’t even ask me about the top I bought at the gig, stuffed inside my jacket, forgot about, opened my jac
ket, dropped it, went on a five minute epic round Birmingham after midnight looking for it. I won’t tell you ANYTHING!
As frontman Huey said at the show "It doesn't get any better than this; three guys from New York playing in Old York". He would be proven right after almost two and a half hours of music and entertainment from the self-confessed Kings of Schmoove, who are doing a good job reminding people that the "New Acoustic Movement" (Coldplay, Travis etc)has not yet eliminated the strongest of musical opposition. I was, I will now admit, quietly apprehensive about this show, because of the seemingly pop-orientated route that the Fun Lovin' Criminals appear to be taking recently. Having followed the band since their debut in 1996, each album has become more mainstream than the last, and with Loco receiving mixed reviews I was not sure what to expect. However, the performance was brilliant as the FLC banged out 15 or 20 songs from their 4 albums and conversed with the crowd to an unparalleled extent. The York Barbican Centre is a reasonably small venue for such a big band, and needless to say was full from the start. The moveable seats in the auditorium had been adjusted to create a balcony effect with the back third of the venue seated high above the rest (which was standing). The set featured the big hits of the band (Scooby Snacks, Korean Bodega, Love Unlimited, Big Night Out, and the latest single Loco). Although the tour is essentially a promotional tour for the new Loco album, the set was a mix of music from all four albums and so had enough diversity to please everyone. Huey conversed and joked with the crowd in between every song, and was duly appreciated with chants of his name. The New York attitude (real or plastic) came through a lot in the show, with Huey threatening to take anyone who didn't like the songs mano et mano after the show (before sensibly realising that there were about a thousand people in the audience). I cannot recall the exact setlist but the 100% Colombian album was probably the mos
t well represented, with Loco receiving an obviously high amount of play. One of the highlights of the show was "Huey's Acting School 2001" in which he and another member of the band's entourage performed a scene from Star Wars in the style of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Needless to say this will be more fodder for the critics who consider the FLC to be an over commercialised group, but it was a good spectacle for the fans. The band excelled themselves musically, with Huey being his brilliant (but underrated) self on the guitar, Mackie drumming away effortlessly, and Fast using all manner of instruments throughout the night. Whether they have sold out or not, the FLC remain one of the finest "real" bands out there, each member being a highly talented musician. And so as we left the Barbican Centre my premonitions of a cheesy pop show had been crushed by the heavy (but often cliched) NY image of the Fun Lovin Criminals. The best performance I have ever been to will remain with me for a long long time, and if the rest of the tour is as successful as the York show then the Criminals should once again be topping festival bills around Europe this summer. Fun Lovin' Criminals: Come Find Yourself (1996), 100% Colombian (1998), Mimosa (1999), Loco (2001)
Huey - Is he like James Bond or what? Forget that Robbie William's bloke. It's Huey that all the guys want to be like and it's Huey who all the girls want to sleep with. Tonight suited and booted the 3 piece, complete with new drummer Mackie, walk on-stage to a standing ovation at this competition winners only gig. Run by the mobile phone company One 2 One, they want to achieve the ultimate in product placement and all that heavy marketing shit - what their basic philosophy is that you buy a One 2 One mobile phone, go to a One 2 One gig and live the One 2 One Lifestyle (Ed: Read Naomi Klein's "No Logo" book for more info on this lifestyle marketing). The first set is the lounge core set which allows for us to get chilled. Huey, effortlessly natural as he sings his way gruffly through "On The Hill" and the loungecore version of "Scooby Snacks". New songs like "Back on the Block" are well received by all as are Hueys stories of "red bull and cocaine". A break ensues and Q&A sesh for the fans follows for about 15 minutes, its a moment that for many bands would be a complete disaster - but with Huey's charismatic presence it simply adds to what is simply a great show. With contractual obligations out of the way its time for the rocking set. "Loco" which can be heard on the Miller Advert has a sleazy funk guitar line. Throughout the show constantly making references to the advert, he laughs it off with "you always knew we liked beer" - just who wouldn't turn down that sort of money. "Run Daddy Run" takes us back to the old hip hop days with a stop start guitar riff throughout. The newies may not have the immediate hooks of the hit singles but its definitely a return to form. With a few old faves ("King Of New York", "Love Unlimited" and a rocking "Scooby Snacks") thrown in for good measure the crowd walk away satisfied
from this intimate showcase and the guys themselves - well they're "Kings Of Manchester" tonight aren't they. Alex McCann PS. Also check out my op of FLC's "Loco" album