Photo by Simon Bamford
Wolverhampton seems to be the second home for gigs for this particular team of Stoke Sounds reviewers over the last few months, having recently caught Mark Lanegan and Exit Calm at venues in this fine Midlands town. I do question at times why we do not attract the calibre of artists in our own fair city and as music fans we have to travel to venues outside Stoke, it never used to be such a desert for gigs as I remember a time when Stoke would attract many varied artists . Its not far to travel here, be it by road or a convenient rail network, however it can be a bit tight getting a last train back though at 10.45! It’s been a while since I last came to the Wulfrun, and I reckon it was an acoustic performance of Spiritualized a couple of years back. Tonight it will be Fun Lovin' Criminals who are a band not usually on my musical radar but well worth checking out all the same, it’s hard to believe its been fifteen years since their first release.
Wolverhampton boasts some fine venues of varying capacity, be it the intimacy of the Slade Rooms and Little Civic to the larger venues of the Wulfrun and the Wolves Civic, all catering for different audiences and offering something for everyone for a great night out everyday of the week regardless of your musical tastes.
As we arrive at the venue The Chemists are on stage warming up the relatively mixed audience and are well received by the crowd. This Bristolian five piece have been supporting FLC throughout the tour in support of their debut album ‘The Theories of Dr Lovelock’ and they do a fine job of it with their guitar driven rock. There is a hint of early U2, INXS and Editors about them to these ears, as they keep the crowd entertained.
For FLC this is their second UK tour to promote the new offering ‘Classic Fantastic’ having returned to the live circuit after a five year hiatus following a hard fought legal battle with their former manager. Prior to FLC re-engaging with their audience again, Huey Morgan has carved himself a successful little niche on TV and radio as a presenter, celebrity guest and host. He is a genuine all round good guy. He is intelligent and humourous with his banter and delivery, which the audience lap up as they take in every word. cannot help but love the guy he is sincere and has to be applauded - he is certainly no fake celebrity he’s one of us.
The massive backdrop to the stage portrays Manhattan, New York which being a FLC gig is appropriate as Huey and the boys hit the stage to rapturous applause. For the next 90 minutes plus they deliver their own distinct familiar brand of music, fusing funk, hip hop, rock, and latin rhythms. Their sounds reflect something of a seventies film and TV soundtracks with their well chosen samples and themes taking us on a funkadelic latino dance vibe trip. Huey, Frank Bembini (drums and acoustic guitar) and multi instrumentalist Brian Leiser are all fine and talented musicians, who certainly know how to keep the crowd interested. There’s no filler at all in this set as they roll out ‘Korean Bodega’ ‘Smoke em’ ‘King of New York’ etc. with Brian Leiser effortlessly switching from keys to horns with a blink of an eye to help maintain that FLC groove.
Huey is both a charismatic front man and a mighty fine guitarist too, taking his own slant on the blues a la BB King licks, and Santana like rhythms with just a slight nod to the late Randy Rhodes as he straps on a replica guitar for added texture in the rock territory. He has the audience in the palm of his hands and with his open friendly humorous banter he keeps this reviewer smiling throughout the performance as they deliver their songs of the underbelly of everyday life, love and the big city. Surprisingly they put ‘Scooby snacks’ roughly mid set and as expected the crowd go bananas for it, FLC are beaming with the response. So who did let the dogs out? No pun intended there folks! However just beware the ‘Scoobies’ just keep ‘em safe from the kids eh...you know what I mean, haha! Seal the biscuit tin. They can bite back unexpectedly.
As they hit the home stretch with the crowd chanting back ‘Barry White!’ for ‘Love Unlimited’ they are clearly having a great time and the audience will go home happy for it or simply find a club to soak up yet more sounds, after all it is a Saturday so party time, and yes they “have all the time in the world”. For tonight everyone is and maybe for one night only we are and they certainly are –‘Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ and 100 per cent Colombian! Who wouldn’t want to be, it may be cold outside but Huey and co have warmed us all up and kept us grooving with their sounds. Welcome back FLC, you may have played to the faithful here tonight, but hey everyone deserves and needs a good night out and you did not disappoint.
Listen : Huey Morgan on BBC Radio 6
Scooby Snacks : Collection