Review by Ian Savage
Local openers Klasside are an unusual choice for this show – an acoustic-infused five-piece with a listenable enough line in grunge-splattered pop-rock, they fail to really entice people in from the Wulfrun’s bar and prompt a scant response from the couple of hundred staking their claim on the main room for the headliners.
They musically have nothing in common with the Noo Yawk boys everyone has come to see tonight, and what could be termed sparse or expansive in another context comes across as just uninspiring here – they pull many onside with an ill-fitting cover of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ as their closing song, but it’s hard to shake the feeling of a pretty high-profile support slot gone to waste.
Then half an hour later Fun Lovin’ Criminals bound onstage as a three-man hip-hop assault outfit, and all attention is firmly front-and-centre – initially leaving their arsenal of onstage instruments untouched they ration out the vocals to ‘Bear Hug’ to a crowd instantly primed for a good time. As they man their artillery the machine-gun snare intro to ‘King of New York’ instigates rows of heaving, undulating bodies with a hundred Black Country voices singing the ‘free John Gotti’ refrain back at the stage.
The standard opening “it’s really good to be here” spiel seems genuinely heartfelt coming from Huey Morgan, and as the band power through a choice selection of cuts from their first few albums (‘All For Self’, ‘Back On The Block’, the “axeman shit” of ‘Loco’) the crowd reciprocate the general sense of bonhomie. At times coming close to ‘An Evening With…’ territory (at least until Huey temporarily shuts it down with a jovial “this ain’t no Q&A”), the band have no fear of leaving inter-song gaps and inviting banter. Stage-left multi-instrumentalist Fast is the perfect foil to the frontman’s ‘if Di Niro was a rock star’ persona, ably switching between keyboards, trumpet, bass pedals, harmonica and electric bass, sometimes three-at-a-time (see: ‘The View Belongs To Everyone’).
The foundations are predictably shaken as ‘Scooby Snacks’ is pulled out, as much by the bouncing crowd as the by now strangely bass-heavy mix, followed by a warp-speed rendition of ‘Where The Bums Go’ which leaves even drummer Frank sweating. There’s few scripted segues this evening, and more drinking than some bands might deem professional – this is what the FLC are all about though, and the palpable smell of ‘substances’ from backstage by ‘Too Hot’ underlines exactly the lifestyle their fans are buying into.
The lower-tempo, stretched-out groove of ‘Will I Be Ready’ is a possibly odd choice for the closing number, but through sheer charisma encoring with an unfamiliar possibly new tune leading into a slinky ‘Love Unlimited’ Huey and co still manage to leave the venue wanting more. You’re unlikely to see the Fun Lovin’ Criminals in the same room as Robert Downey Jnr, for fear of a galaxy-destroying singularity of cool – as they leave the stage with “It’s been an honour and a pleasure after almost twenty years”, the feeling’s largely mutual.