Wow, Fun Lovin’ Criminals have some following. When the enigmatic three-piece step on stage, the atmosphere inside the Academy is not dissimilar to the rap battle scenes from Eminem’s 8 Mile (though perhaps a tad older and more middle class), with those down the front slinging their arms at the stage and whooping as every track flies past. The genre defying funk-rock stars treat a gig like a celebration, and when you have the kind of party-pushing music they do, why on earth not.
From the opening chords – or in Fun Lovin’ Criminals case, bassy solos – to the closing rhythms of traditional set-topper -The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’ there’s an energy about The Academy that’s forcefully infectious. Front man Huey – who’s half Irish (having invested in Dublin bars and a pizza joint in the past) – is vocally egged on throughout, bringing his own brand of funk crossed with sporadic hip-hop crossed with the odd dabbling in classical rock. He dominates at stage front, banging fists regularly with captivating drummer Frank Benbini and quieter multi-instrumentalist Brian Leiser. In fact, the crowd only breaks from crying Huey’s name to shout -Scooby’ instead. The much-requested hit’s given a boisterous airing mid way through the set, making room for a slower (aside from -The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’), closing time style encore. The encore also features a new track that “sums up where we’ve been for the last five years”, and is notable for its atypical, drum-less acoustic sound.
In between, -Southside’ takes on an odd new meaning, with a few of the crowd throwing in jokes about Foxrock mid way through the San Francisco-themed track. Barry White tribute -Love Unlimited’ gives everyone an excuse to scream “Barry White saved my life” without looking like a head case, while -Korean Bodega’ is spared Garbage’s electronica treatment, yet still stands a touch aside from the band’s funkier material. Newer Latino-themed efforts like -Mi Corazon’ are more than a match for older material like the ever thought provoking debut album effort -Passive/Aggressive’.
Tonight, though, is as much about the audience as the band. Fun Lovin’ Criminals – as quirky and comic as they often are – are a fairy predictable live act, serving The Academy a great, appetizing dollop of exactly what they want. In truth, there’s little need to throw in their most diverse of efforts, nonetheless there’s a definitive theme to their tracks that occasionally, over the course of 90 minutes, edges into -samey’ territory. Predictable, yes, and lacking any mind-blowing musical variety, but can we forgive them when they induce this kind of party? Of course we can.
Photos by Kieran Frost.
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