Fun Lovin’ Criminals


“You must be crazy coming to see the Fun Lovin’ Criminals in a church on a Friday night, but that’s what I like about you,” the charismatic Huey Morgan says to the massed ranks of his congregation. Crazy or not, there is no hotter ticket in town tonight – the touts outside the sold out venue are evidence of that.

For the Fun Lovin’ Criminals this is the latest gig as part of a tour celebrating the album Come Find Yourself. It’s hard to believe that album was released almost twenty years ago. A great deal has changed for the band, for one the band’s frontman is fast approaching national treasure status with his 6Music Radio show.  You certainly didn’t see that coming when they first played in the city.

The album itself was one that I played and played back in the day, given the way that music consumption has changed in the intervening years, it’s one that I have not listened to in its entirety for a while. The odd track has popped up on shuffle over the years, reminding me of what I was missing out on.

There is no support tonight, instead the DJ pulls out all the stops playing an eclectic set of tunes that certainly warms up the audience for the main act. The wait also offers the opportunity to take in the magnificent surroundings of Manchester Cathedral.  It is my first visit and will certainly be back soon, whether that’s for another gig or just to have a look around. It is such an impressive building.

The stage is set in the nave of the cathedral and is flanked by massive imposing pillars creating a space for the audience to stand and watch the gig, The Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ backdrop is mounted on a bigger white screen creating a barrier between alter and the main chapel, which is closed off for the evening.  Although there are enough reminders that you are in a place of worship; the religious iconography mixes well with the FLC related merchandise

When Fun Lovin’ Criminals finally emerge, they do so to the theme from Star Wars. The strobe lights cannon around the elegantly gothic venue to further add to the atmosphere. As frontman Huey comes on stage he does so to a welcome reserved for homecoming kings. He tries to mute the applause directed at him, by pointing at the other members of the band, but the chants of ‘Huey, Huey,’ persist.

For the opening number ‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’, Fast is certainly deserving of sharing that acclaim, as he shuffles between trumpet, harmonica and keyboard across points of the song. He is certainly dressed appropriately for the night’s setting. He even has a massive religious cross hanging from his neck that suggested he could perform an exorcism if the need was to arise.

There is plenty of between song chatter from the entire band. Huey in particular says that he will intersperse the night’s set with some tales about how the songs for this album came together.  ‘The Grave and the Constant’ apparently came about after Huey had read James Joyce, who he describes as “some mother fucker”. The frontman looks horrified at his choice of words for a moment as he remembers where he is.

Fun Lovin' Criminals

Fun Lovin’ Criminals

Though any restraint on the swearing front would have to be relaxed as the profanity-laden sample from Pulp Fiction that opens ‘Scooby Snacks’ is soon echoing around the venue. As you would expect, the audience laps this up and any restraint and religiosity is cast aside.

It is certainly thirsty work for the band, although the tequila interludes are not coming quick enough for Fast. Eventually their tour manager Ben brings out the required drinks after ‘Bombin’ the L’. This gives Huey more time to converse with his congregation, while Ben tends to the all their drink needs.

Listening to the album prior to the gig and hearing it live, it is clear that its one that’s managed to stand the test of time. It’s one that works in a live setting too. Although the main problem with playing an album in full like this is that you lose that sense of anticipation when the band works through the songs. On an album they are sequenced in a different way than you would build a set list.  I’m sure ‘Scooby Snacks’ wouldn’t have been track number five in a normal set.

‘King of New York’ is another one of the favourites, if the reaction to the opening bars is to be believed. It’s a song that showcases that what a band the free piece is.  Huey may try and deflect the praise that comes his way, but he reminds you of his talents as a guitarist on this track. Huey again talks about how this song came together. He says that even though the mafia boss John Gotti, the subject of the song wasn’t alive, when he wrote it, he still had to run it past his son John Gotti Junior. “Let’s just say the mafia aren’t big on irony,” was all he would say about this meeting.

‘We Have All the Time in the World’ slows the pace down a touch. This is dedicated to a couple of newly weds that Fast had met before the gig, but he’d forgotten their names. ‘They know who they are anyway,” he said by way of an apology. The James Bond theme is something that is now inextricably linked with the band given how sublime their version is on record. Its quality is certainly not lessened when they play it live either.  This leaves Huey visibly moved by their rendition and the reaction from the crowd, he even admits to having to wipe a tear away.

There is yet another drinks interlude, Bev, Frank Benbini the drummer’s mum make it on stage accompanied by the Queen song ‘Crazy Thing Called Love’ playing over the PA to replenish the depleted tequila reserves of the band before ‘Come Find Yourself’.

I think I can count at least three tequila interludes from assorted members of drummer Frank’s family happily supplied and mixed. Sadly none of which are passed to the audience. Never mind, we were served up a treat in other ways.

The chilled out ‘Methadonia’ 
closes the ‘Come Find Yourself’ part of the set before the band depart for a drink – something that they say that the audience should be doing also.   After a ten-minute break, they re-emerge to The A-Team theme tune for the encore. A quick blast through ‘Coney Island Girl’ acts as a loosener for the none-Come Find Yourself favourites.

The highlight of the night for me is definitely ‘Love Unlimited’. It has lost none of its spark in the intervening years and live it has that lustre too.  The live version has added theatricality, with Huey constantly pointing to his wedding ring at the ‘got you back with your ex-wife’ part of the chorus.

The enigmatic ‘Big Night Out’ ends the gig and lyrically it certainly shows how things have changed in the intervening twenty-year period, especially given Huey’s married status. There is something wonderfully chaotic about the night; it is like the audience had all been invited along to a party.

In fact, the gig is only the start of one. As the band leave the stage with a promise that the night would be continuing over at the Walrus Bar – all present are free to join the band. It was great night for all those that attended the gig and probably those who carried on with the band later.

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