Fun Lovin’ Criminals At Vicar Street – Review & Photos
When Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ debut album Come Find Yourself was released in February 1996, it provided much needed respite from the moribund musical landscape of the time. Britpop was desperately trying to stay vertical in the toilets of Camden Town, Grammys were been foisted upon Hootie and the Blowfish, and the ‘next big thing’ was an insipid version of Nirvana or Oasis, depending on which side of the pond you were from. Oh, and Babylon Zoo were number one in the charts. Thank God then for the NYC trio of Huey Morgan, ‘Fast’ and then drummer Steve Borgovini, who satisfied the appetite for something with a bit more substance lyrically (John Gotti, urban violence) and musically (hip hop, rock, funk). Sprinkled with Tarantino samples and references to De Niro, Come Find Yourself was simultaneously gritty and exotic, and went gold within weeks of release, spawning great singles like ‘Scooby Snacks’ and ‘King Of New York’.
Which brings us to tonight in Vicar Street, as the FLC celebrate 20 years since its release. With ‘New York Groove’ setting the mood, the Crims stroll onstage to the Star Wars theme. Let’s get something out of the way – ‘Fast’ hasn’t aged one bit, looking like he just walked off the Reservoir Dogs set, cool as f**k in a slim black suit. Huey is all smiles as they kick off with, obviously, the first track on the album ‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’. The sound is far from perfect, and surprisingly stays that way for the night, but the near capacity crowd are up for it regardless. Highlight of the night (only four songs in) is ‘Scooby Snacks’, which presents a problem – where do you go after you’ve played the big one so early in the set? I guess that’s the conundrum with these full album gigs, particularly when the artist stays true to the running order of the original record. The element of surprise disappears, evidenced by the sight of punters heading out for another drink or a smoke, timing their return precisely because they know what song will be played when. In fairness to Fun Lovin’ Criminals, the onstage banter between songs and their natural charm keeps things wholly enjoyable throughout, but the atmosphere noticeably lags during certain slower album tracks. What is undeniable, however, is the musicianship of the band, whether it’s Huey shredding his guitar, ‘Fast’ switching effortlessly between keys, bass and brass, or Frank Benbini drumming one-handed to preserve the glass of wine in his other paw. Well, it’s Friday night as the band keep telling us.
It was for me, as I’m sure for others as well, a sentimental way to revisit some of the lesser known songs from the album. ‘The Grave And The Constant’ and ‘Methadonia’ are two such highlights tonight, and a reminder of how good this band sound when they slow things down to create a laid back, smoky vibe. Yeah, that kind of smoky.
With Come Find Yourself put to bed for the night, the band return to play a few hits from their back catalogue, including ‘Loco’, ‘Love Unlimited’ and ‘Korean Bodega’. Unsurprisingly, the set never hits the heights of ‘Scooby Snacks’, although a mass wave at the finale of ‘Big Night Out’ ensures the night ends on a high, sending the punters out into a chilly Thomas Street with smiles on faces. And if you can do that after twenty years, you’re not doing too bad.
Photos by David Doyle
Review by Keith McGouran