Dry ice is wafting up from the stage like steam rising from the vents in New York City on a hot summer's day, like the one we have had today. The crowd have gathered expectantly near the stage for everyone’s friends from the Big Apple, psyched from the warm up band. Opening the night had been the surprisingly good Working Lions, who despite looking like a clichéd college band – ripped jeans and all – played a surprisingly tight set.

During the change over between the bands, hip-hop and funk is playing across the nightclub floor, an unusual mix of music for the Corporation rock night, but the music suits the Fun Lovin' Criminals’ unique blend of music. This blend is mirrored in the broad range of people who have gathered here tonight to see the band begin their 2011 tour, promoting their forthcoming live album.

As the music dies and the lights dim, Huey, Fast and Frank stride onto stage, all Saville Row suits and killer smiles, to exultant applause. Huey smiles at the crowd with a grin that could charm even the coldest heart, and launches into ‘We The Three’ (from their latest studio album ‘Classic Fantastic’) and receives rapturous roars from the audience when Huey ad-libs in “Sheffield!”, before launching into ‘Korean Bodega’. The boys are back, and we know it.

By the end of the first track, it is obvious that this will be an awesome gig. The crowd are already in Huey's hands, and he is beaming his wise-cracking grin in appreciation. As with all of the Fun Lovin' Criminals' gigs, the boys are happiest when engaged with the crowd, and tonight is no exception.

What follows is a stellar performance which proved, despite a fifteen year career, that the Fun Lovin' Criminals are here to stay. Their set list included songs from across the entire spectrum of their back-catalogue, although I detected a certain leaning towards the start of their career, which is no bad thing as for many it had been a while since we had heard some of our favourite tracks played live. Equally these were not faithful imitations of the studio recording, but redressed versions with a faster beat that was more suited for a live audience rather than the laid-back chill-out albums that the Fun Lovin' Criminals are renowned for.

Of particular note were the crowd pleasers that are ‘Scooby Snacks’ and ‘King of New York’ (with Huey encouraging the crowd – what little they needed – to sing along to the chorus), ‘Grave and the Constant’, ‘Bump’ and ‘10th Street’. The latter had an almost metal feel with Huey's fantastic guitar work in the chorus.

Although Huey is the front man of the Fun Lovin' Criminals, with his wise-cracks and roguish smile; the band would not be what it is today without his cohorts. Uncle Frank is on drums, cheerfully heckling Huey throughout the gig, whilst the under-stated, yet impressively talented Fast plays keyboards and trombone (usually at the same time no less) as well as backing vocals. This is a band that has gelled well together, with their easy repartee and camaraderie on stage, which makes for a fantastic night of music and entertainment.

Technically, the night was flawless, with a fantastic clear sound across the night club, marred only by a short moment of feedback which had Huey cheerfully mocking the nightclub’s sound-technicians. All too soon, the Fun Lovin' Criminals concluded their set and marched off the stage with a wave and goodnight. It was scant seconds after Frank had left before chants of “Huey!” and “F. L.C!” was echoing across the nightclub: the audience’s demands for the Fun Lovin' Criminals' return post-haste.

Letting the excitement build, the FLC teased the audience until they were at fever-pitch and strode onto stage with the surprising choice of the laid back ‘Come Find Yourself’. The second track on their encore was my personal favourite of their cover of Louis Armstrong's ‘We Have All the Time in the World’, which saw couples holding each other in their arms and swaying along to Huey's dulcet tones. Concluding their encore, and the night, was their classic début track, ‘The Fun Lovin' Criminal’, a surprising choice as it is more often their introductory track, but nonetheless a popular one which had the crowd singing along.

Thus ended what was probably one of the coolest gigs by the Fun Lovin' Criminals that I have seen. Ironically, I said the same thing this time last year, but just like a fine wine, they are maturing and getting even better with time. The boys are back in business, and business is cool.

Photos by Jacquie James (www.glassrat.co.uk)











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