Fun Lovin' Criminals - live at Albert Hall

Fun Lovin’ Criminals – live at Albert Hall


Incense smoke sneaks around the room, as though from the very pipes of the Albert Hall organ, maybe blown by some celestial keys man, working the heavenly pedals. Something smells pretty sweet, anyways. Look around and at first it seems somehow sacrilegious: that people would rave, silhouetted in front of the stained-glass windows that run around the balcony of the venue. E for Ecclesiastical. But that feels OK. A night with the Fun Lovin’ Criminals is a quasi-religious experience. Quasi-religious, quasi-delicious. There’s a lot of love in the room, that’s for sure. Somewhere between the gutter and the stars is where we all reside. Criminals maybe. Fun lovin’ for sure. Living life with the mucho grande style.

I was lucky enough to see the band once before, also in Manchester. Turn of the millennium. A small room, a few people, big atmosphere. They work in Manchester. Lead singer Huey Morgan is an anglophile in any case, what with the award-winning 6Music show; Fast lives in the UK and drummer Frank Benbini is actually Mark Reid… from Leicester. And if you sink a few and squint, Manchester can look kind of like New York. Manhattanchester. Huey has spoken previously of his kinship with the Happy Mondays and as bands both loose of groove and baggy of morality they are indeed brothers from different mothers. But these guys make a sound that is pure Americana, Lower East Side.

DJ Mateo warms up the room as though gently placing a bedpan beneath the dancefloor until its collective tush is hot to trot. When the boys step onto the stage the room is positively toasty. Huey is be-hatted, in what looks like a Fedora, a suit as dark as his sneakers are white-bright. Fast is lithe and lively, playing keys and trumpet… and sometimes both at the same time. Frank on sticks, phat of beat and also rotund of waistline.

The floor laps up the opener – what else – ‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’ that also opens the 1996 debut album Come Find Yourself. Hard to believe it’s been over two decades since the Crimms snuck up on us. From there the band swing through the best cuts of each of their long players, like slices of the finest street-side pizza. They touch on a bunch of musical genres – and no doubt a bunch of private lady places – as they swerve through their set like low-slung hoodlums in a jacked convertible. There’s a love thing going on: when the lights come up you can see the crowd adores the band, the hug of a balcony packed with revellers. And the band pay it back. Tracks like ‘Passive Aggressive’, ‘Come Find Yourself’, ‘Smoke ‘Em’ and ‘The Grave And The Constant’ pour from the stage like bourdon into a glass, Huey’s dapper dan hand on the Les Paul (for a kick, watch his YouTube clips on how to play funk guitar). And those sleazy, street funk songs keep coming, at times the band hitting the overdrive as they rock out, at others dropping down into funk. At one point Frank even introduces a hip hop section.

For their last track the band play their version of ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ from the 1999 compilation Mimosa. But you get the feeling that’s not strictly true. The Fun Lovin’ Criminals had their crime spree and never quite matched the effortless swing of their first album and the follow-up, 100% Colombian. But there is forever a corner of the sidewalk that is reserved for them alone.

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…