LIVE: Fun Lovin’ Criminals (Exeter University Great Hall 19/2/16)

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To mark 20 years since the release of their signature debut album Come Find Yourself, the irrepressible Fun Lovin’ Criminals are back on the road with their genre-spanning sound and super-cool on-stage shtick.

Since the band was formed in New York in 1993, their Big Apple origins have been a deliberately big part of their image and the music – something made abundantly clear on this tour where the support band slot was filled with a 75 minute film made up of music videos, TV commercials and other footage showing the city in all its glory. The music vid segments in particular gave an insight into some of the band’s influences and inspirations – Blondie, Beastie Boys and Liza Minelli among those reflecting the eclectic strands that feed into the FLC concoction.

While it’s been six years since their last studio album, the anniversary of their debut classic was as good a reason as any to go on tour. Kicking off with Fun Lovin’ Criminal – first on the album but usually the track they end their live shows with – they went on to play Come Find Yourself in full and in order. Highlights included the sublime We Have All The Time In The World, stomping pair Crime and Punishment and King of New York, as well as traditional crowd favourite Scooby Snacks.

The extended encore was made up of a selection of some of their subsequent material, including Korean Bodega, Coney Island Girl, Loco, Friday Night, and Love Unlimited before wrapping up with Big Night Out.

Fronted by the charismatic Huey Morgan – playing not so far from his (perhaps unlikely) home in Frome, Somerset – they are a mesmerising watch. Brian ‘Fast’ Leiser (multi-instrumentalist including keyboards, bass, trumpet – and even slide whistle!) and Leicester-born drummer Frank Benbini bring their own individual swagger to proceedings – the latter at one stage drumming with one hand, drink in the other during Friday Night.

With a few more UK dates to go this month, they take the Come Find Yourself anniversary tour across Europe in March, before hitting several summer festivals and then heading on to a set of dates in Australia later in the year.

The FLC act – with musical nods towards hip-hop, rap, jazz, soul and rock – is a lesson in making a gig feel both like a big deal and also an intimate get-together. Polished as you would expect from a band that’s been playing together so long, they make no apologies for still playing the songs that their fans love after all these years. Said Leiser: “As long as you keep making the noise, we’ll keep playing.”

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