I tend to get obsessed with certain bands…injunctions are in place but I’m not allowed to talk about it. This level of loyalty can last for many years, decades even, and inevitably leads to me to attend multiple live shows put on by the object of my affection, which as everyone knows triggers the law of diminishing returns; (band + familiarity) x age = bad experience. If this poorly put together equation is to be believed then last Friday night should’ve been terrible as I’ve seen the Fun Lovin’ Criminals more times than any other band. I am happy to report that the FLC have managed to become the exception that proves the rule.
We arrived a little late to Bristol’s O2 Academy, entering just as the FLC were halfway through their opener; track 1, album 1, The Fun Lovin’ Criminal. A little too on the nose? Not for this crowd. There were more than a few grey and bald heads bobbing up and down in the mosh pit, and whereas previous gigs back in the FLC’s heydays were awash with wannabe gangsters and tinged with the bitter-sweet scent of weed, this gig was far more likely to be characterised by country casuals and the stench of real ale farts.
The band themselves have aged too of course, with the exception of Fast who somehow looks just the same as he did 20 years ago, drummer replacement, Frank Benbini has been with the band nearly 14 years now. Huey is starting to look more and more like a prize fighter past his prime yet you’ll still believe he could throw a knockout punch anytime he wanted and he’s still as quick-witted as ever, which he proved by joking with the audience between Passive/Aggressive and The Grave and the Constant, the next two tracks on the set-list. You may notice that so far the first three tracks have all been from the FLC’s first album, Come Find Yourself, last year was the 20 year anniversary of the release of their debut and to mark the occasion they toured it all year long, this tour is something of a follow-up with just a soupcon of tracks from other albums throw in for good measure.
Just to prove that fact, the next song they played was the self-titled track from their third album, Loco, which succeeded in giving the whole event more of jovial upbeat feel. We then jumped straight back on the nostalgia train with a few more tracks from the early days with Smoke ’em if you got ’em, Bombing the L and the chilled high point of the evening, I can’t get with that. I go back and forth on which is my favourite FLC album, the first or the second so I was happy to hear the bombastic Korean Bodega from 100% Colombian next up.
With the promise from Huey to fuck Friday night in the ass they delivered Thinking of you, one of the most recent songs they played all night but quickly followed that up with the song that probably brought them to the attention of most people, Scooby Snacks. I thought without a doubt that they’d leave this one to the encore but I was pleased we got it earlier on as it really brought the crowd alive, with the chorus being echoed back to the band more like a chant from the terraces rather than an indy classic. This song more than any other probably explains how and why he band have such a faithful following in the UK, with Scooby Snacks they managed to capture that 90’s Tarantino-inspired ‘coolness’ that seemed quite exotic to many a British teenager at the time, myself included but the reason we stuck around? The music was and still is good, capturing just the right mix between Hip-Hop, and good ol’ fashioned blues-inspired rock n roll.
The rest of the night, continued on something of a high, even the destruction of Frankie’s snare drum during Come find yourself couldn’t put a dampener on the party, in fact because he dealt with it so well, everyone in the audience seemed to fall in love with the once-interloper all over again. Ever the entertainer, Huey was happy to tell tales of the old days and introduced each song like an old friend, or enemy, as was the case with the King of New York.
Although their best days are probably behind them, the FLC still have it where it counts, in fact Huey’s skills on the guitar have only gotten better, Frankie is a sensation on the drums and Fast can still play the trumpet and the keyboard at the same time better than anyone on the planet. How does he do that?! It’s probably quite poignant that they ended the main show with We Have All the Time in the World because as long as they keep giving their fans exactly what they want these guys could keep going until they’re all carted off to the retirement home for wannabe gangsters.