WORDS BY JANET HARDING / IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
It’s Saturday night, I’m in Liverpool and after being out of it this past few months I’m back in the saddle tonight, and in epic style, as my return to gigging is with no other than alt rock/hip hop legends the Fun Lovin Criminals. A huge part of my younger years, and safe to say many people’s soundtrack of the 90s, I’m excited to see this iconic band with a UK tour at the 02 Academy. I’ve heard good things, and the support ain’t too shabby either tonight, with Warrington’s own Winachi. Tonight’s offering is one hell of a musical feast!
Liam Croker – lead vocal
Antony Egerton – keys/programming
Inder Goldfinger – percussion/tabla
Andy Mckay – guitars
Paul Lawrence – drums
Wow. Winachi positively explode on stage before us. In an array of glistening guitar lines, synth and the funkiest beats and percussion you‘ll likely ever hear, this set is off to one hell of a start! This band oozes cool, and brings that ‘Wazza’ swagger in spades! It’s a hypnotic performance from the off: Liam as a front man is very watchable, strutting about the stage, playing up to photographers and posing down people’s mobile phones as they film. It’s really captivating. He banters between songs and interacts with the rest of the band and audience members. We as a crowd are bouncing now, it’s gone off, the heat level is off the scale and the energy these guys give us is phenomenal. We can’t stay still. Funky dance, electro, synth – it’s high vibrational but with trippy vibes. That feeling of being totally lost in the music somewhere in the middle of a dance floor, that euphoria, that spark that induces dancing and produces endorphins en masse. The sound is clear, concise, shimmering, very tight musically and the percussion adds that other worldly feel, a whole other dimension. It’s tribal feeling, mesmeric, it works brilliantly. Backing tracks add depth, pulsating, deep, bass beats you can feel through your entire body, the tunes quite literally are banging.
It’s a full set list, and this venue has come alive. It’s bouncing. Liam’s vocals sit effortlessly within the intricate weavings of this sound. There’s a lightness to his tone, it’s breezy and carefree, breathy and low, but then on occasion a delicious gravel, that real grate that punctuates the sound.. There’s a diversity to this whole sound; we alternate between funky dance club feels to rich, evocative sounds of Californian smog-filled, hazy days sat in traffic on freeways. You can really detect the strong Los Angeles influences. Gritty, witty and clever lyrics coupled with the afore mentioned swagger ensures a performance that is must see.
Winachi are firmly on my ‘to see again’ list…dare I say it?…funky but chic…check them out, it’s a sound you don’t want to miss out on.
2/ African Shaker
3/ Everybody Everyone
6/ For You I’d Kill
7/ Heaven in Hell
8/ Sympathy for the Future
9/ Funky but Chic
10/ Time for Love
Fun Lovin Criminals – Headline
Brian Leiser – bass/keys/trumpet/lead vocal
Frank Benbini – drums/backing vocals
Naim Cortazzi – guitar/backing vocal
After that explosive set from Winachi the excitement in here is off the scale now. We’re more than ready for our headline act, it’s like canned heat, you can feel the anticipation in the air, and if it’s even possible it’s got even hotter. The lights go out, we are now in total darkness. Joss sticks have been lit and placed around the stage so there’s now a scent in the air up front too. To the atmospheric sounds of ‘the Lonely Shepherd” the Fun Lovin Criminals keep us hanging for a few minutes…talk about setting the scene, with the dark, the incense and the spine tingling tune filtering through the venue, we’re on a knife’s edge here!…then in a dazzling array of flashing bright white lights and strobing, this iconic band arrive before us to utterly deafening applause. Now that’s how you make an entrance!
With beaming smiles and waves it’s straight into…(what else could it be) Fun Lovin Criminals. It just couldn’t have started with anything else! A surge of energy hits the crowd and we are off, chanting along, bouncing. In a flurry of pure nostalgia, it’s a massive sound, crisp, clean and clear, and LOUD! That well known vocal rapping to us conjures up so many images of 90s culture and memories, the most eclectic reminiscent sounds! It’s pure joy. The whole feel of this set is fun, laid back vibes – the entire house is swaying, bobbing, chanting along in time – no wilds, no untamed moshpit, it’s banging, but it’s a happy, friendly, let’s just go with the flow type banging. It’s an incredible energy these guys have created and it’s something truly special to be a part of. It’s feel good, ‘gin ’n’ juice’, chillin’ feels – that hot summer, city heat feel and massive East Coast sounds. We have huge alt rock with the heavy guitars which really give that gritty, hard edge sitting well with some of the lyrics which describe urban life in New York city, organised crime and gang violence, but we swing from this to a real funk/soul sound, with massive 70s and 80s influence, almost Kool and the Gang type sounds. It’s that juxtaposition of feel good versus hard hitting that works so well.
Keys bring another element to this multi faceted sound, an almost 3 dimensional feel, then synths soften and make the vibe laid back. Sampling on loops brings the hip hop feels, certainly diverse, ranging from samples of Barry White to clips from Quentin Tarantino films; the steady beats with a banging bass drum we can feel in our bodies, then that fast, skippy cymbal work, jazz like rat-a- tatting trumpet brings more to that jazz element and funks the whole sound up and those low, round, dulcet vocal tones, with that New York accent, gives a grounding effect, keeping it real and reminding us of those gritty undertones. It’s food for the soul.
Chat between songs is light, friendly and very genuine; thanks is given throughout and witty banter and interaction with the crowd. This band really do give so much to their performance, it’s completely infectious. As an audience we’re loving it – happiness en masse and we’ve all been lifted – you can literally feel the cheeriness spreading! Sounds of an era from across the Atlantic, it’s a sound that doesn’t stem from the UK, but we embrace it whole heartedly. It’s a privilege to witness and be a part of this wonderful, magical and melodic experience tonight – mellow, an almost spiritual and altered state kind of a feel. Dreamy, calming and totally uplifting….the calm before the storm, I mean when your encore finishes on ‘Scooby snacks’ it’s hardly gonna stay chilled out is it? Bouncing, ripples of people jumping, in a tidal wave of frenzied energy. Fun Lovin Criminals, it’s been out of this world! One hell of a set and ending on a super high! I’ll never forget this extraordinary experience. Thank you.
…I leave the 02 Academy with my jeans sticking to me and my hair wet through … Always a sign of a banging gig!
1/ Run Daddy Run
2/ Korean Bodega
3/ Smoke em
4/ Big Night Out
5/ Too Hot
6/ Up on the Hill
8/ Got our love
10/ King of NY
11/ We are very Worried
12/ Love Unlimited
13/ Bombin the L
14/ Shake it Loose
15/ Mi Corazon
16/ We the 3
17/ There was a time
18/ Bear Hug
19/ Couldn’t get it right
10/ I Can’t get with that
2-/ Scooby Snacks
FOLLOW FUN LOVIN CRIMINALS
Warren is a live music and festival photographer based in Cheshire and covers gigs/festivals mostly in the North West of England. He has been photographing live music for over 10 years and has covered major artists and festivals