It has been a quiet time for the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, since their last album, 'Livin’ In The City', was released in 2005. Much of this quietness resulted from them being with a record label that did not know quite what to do with the band, as the Fun Lovin’ Criminals do not fit into a specific musical genre. Nonetheless, Huey, Fast, and Frankie have remained busy playing festivals and appearing as Guest DJs whilst pursuing their own individual interests (Huey presents an award winning radio show, while Fast has focused on his mixing and artwork, and both have since married).

Nottingham Splendour Festival was to be the Fun Lovin’ Criminals first appearance, following the announcement of their new album 'Classic Fantastic'later in the year, and I was keenly looking forward to the Criminals return to the scene.

The Fun Lovin’ Criminals emerged on stage in smart black suits. Huey, with a sly grin promised to remain PG in deference to the children, and admitted to “being somewhat blue.” Whereupon the band launched into 'Tenth Street' before merging seamlessly into 'Korean Bodega'. With this early focus on previous material, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals indicated that they were here to remind us what they were about.

Their set included 'Mars', a teaser from their forthcoming album; as well as 'Where the Bums Go', 'Loco', 'Smoke Em', but with variations not found on their studio albums. For these had been deliberately reworked for a faster tempo more in keeping with a live performance. Despite their hiatus, the response was phenomenal, with Huey extending 'I Can’t Get Wi’ That' and 'King of New York', as the crowd sang along.

Frankie is the Fun Lovin’ Criminals drummer who has been with them the longest, and this shows in his seamless integration with the band giving a refined edge to their music and a stronger internal cohesion for the group. Huey proved that he was not only a great singer, but has developed even more as a great guitarist, performing an impressive series of guitar solos throughout their set. Likewise, both Fast and Frankie have remained incredibly skilled as both musicians and backing vocals.

Although I missed their usual adhoc re-enactments of crime movies between songs (this was probably because they were not the headlining act of the festival), Huey nonetheless chatted with the audience between songs. After encouraging the crowd to start a Mexican wave, he broke his promise of remaining PG with “Fuck it, let’s rob some banks”, before launching into the iconic 'Scooby Snacks'. This quite possibly had to be the quote of the day and proved Huey still possessed his roguish charm.

Concluding with the self-titled 'The Fun Lovin’ Criminal' this was a fantastic performance that proved the Fun Lovin’ Criminals can still – in Huey’s own words – “rock the house”.

Fronted by the iconic Shane McGowan whose reputation more than precedes him the Pogues have a long history of being the pinnacle of Irish folk-punk, Perhaps I am in the minority, but I consider a band whose lead singer is only there part of the time to be a distinctly unfulfilling experience. This is, however, what happened when the Pogues went on stage as the penultimate act on the bill.

Musically they were incredibly competent, and their long history together showed, as the musicians complimented each other exceedingly well. The enjoyment of watching this on-stage chemistry was ruined by Shane McGowan’s drunken caterwauling, which we assumed were the lyrics. This was so inarticulate that we needed subtitles in order to understand what he was saying. The only time we (unintentionally) got them, however, was when McGowan was slurringly echoing what the other band members were saying between songs. Some bands sound better live, others sound no different, but the Pogues sound worse live than their studio albums.

Yet despite these criticisms of Shane McGowan’s behaviour, the Pogues had an undeniable energy that you could not help be swept along by, and most notably with 'Dirty Old Town'. Perhaps it was the quality of the music, but their was a distinctly infectious beat to their sound, the strength of which was able to counter the majority of Shane’s distractions.

Although I have never been particularly enamoured of the Pogues, and Shane McGowan’s behaviour did nothing to alleviate this disinterest, I could not help but be impressed by the rest of the band.


The photos that accompany this article were taken by Peter Allison















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