Live Music + Gig Reviews

Fun Lovin’ Criminals @ Forum, London

21 September 2005

The Fun Lovin Criminals – they’re so crazy! Taking the stage to the sound of that annoying, cheap car alarm which does several different types of “whoop”, one might be forgiven for thinking that Goldie Lookin’ Chain were in “da house”. Except that there’s not a single fluorescent tracksuit top in sight – only Huey Morgan in a sharp brown velvet jacket and cream slacks combination, and the man they call Fast (real name Brian) in what could well be an Armani suit. Oh, and some chubby fella wearing what looks like a white kaftan.

Turns out the last guy is called Frank and he’s their new drummer – and a pretty good one at that – and it’s his birthday. Is it always some band member’s birthday at every gig I go to? Thirteen Senses were having some celebrations at a Shepherd’s Bush gig recently for their lead guitarist and I’m sure it was Aimee Mann‘s birthday when I saw her last in concert. Maybe bands have several birthdays a year so they can get the audience to whoop and holler in the absence of anything else to whoop and holler about.

Of course, that’s not true of FLC. However, I have always felt that they suffer from the problem of style over substance, so focussing on the way they dress is not entirely inappropriate here. As if to prove me wrong, though, they get their chops out and fill the place with guitars, drums, sequenced bass and audio clips from movies (the most famous, of course, being Scooby Snacks’ appropriation of the dialogue from the opening scene of Pulp Fiction). All, sadly, to the detriment of Huey’s baritone mumble which is engulfed in the instrumentation – except on their almost note-perfect encore rendition of Hendrix‘s Foxy Lady where he is able to scream to his heart’s content.

That is clearly a difficulty FLC struggle with live – they want to be all loungey (and it really works for a track like Smoke ‘Em), but for the hip-hop and rock tracks, Huey’s vocal just can’t make it through the mix. Ah well. You can’t have everything, I guess. I mean, where would you put it?

The other problem for FLC is that they just don’t have enough corking material to fill out the 100 minutes or so that they are on stage. When Fun Lovin’ Criminal burst out, 15 minutes after the Forum’s official curfew (they started late because of a queue for the guest list!), it did feel like we’d been waiting for nearly an hour and a half for about three songs, having to hear unpromising material from their new album (including a “slowie” attacking George Bush called Gave Up On God) as well as a lot of filler from their other two LPs.

All the same, no-one can take away from them that they are one of the funkiest bands on the planet when they want to be – and the politest, it seems (Huey couldn’t gush enough about how touched he was that anyone came – hopefully no-one told him about the guest list). And most bands don’t even have one song as good as FLC’s theme tune, that really is worth the price of admission alone to hear live.

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