The Fun Loving Criminals are that odd thing, a group with a truly unique sound. Existing somewhere between blues and hip-hop but with elements of rock and funk and pretty much anything you can think of thrown in as they see fit. They are also incredibly good at squeezing new ideas from this formula, a fact first established on the FLC debut album “Come Find Yourself” exactly 20 years prior to the show. This show at the Kentish Town O2 forum was a chance for them to play the entire album, take a break and then do a second set of hits.
As they took to the stage to a fanfare introduction that was not part of the album which they had come to perform, the difficult difference between an album and a live show started to settle on the back of my thoughts. There could be no doubt though, that when the first notes of the opening song played, the crowd jumped in to gleeful action. The band’s self entitled track “The Fun Loving Criminal” is a hard one not to find yourself smiling and dancing to, and multi instrumentalist “Fast” is hard not to marvel at as he switches between trumpet and harmonica without a breath between. Four tracks in, the band’s sure fire crowd pleaser “Scooby Snacks” got another adoringly energetic reaction and by this point, everyone was settled in to a very warm feeling assisted by FLC’s playful banter between songs. It was the air of a band who have bonded over the years and a fan base that’s never forgotten them.
Unfortunately, the difficulties of playing an album straight through showed a little in the later more mellow parts. Despite blistering deliveries of some musically dynamic numbers, the separation of the die hard word-for-word knowing fans and those who just knew the album’s earlier hits did begin to show making me think how much more appreciated these wonderful album songs would have been in a smaller and more intimate venue. I felt particularly disheartened as the closing song from the album, “Melancholia” which is a fantastically thoughtful piece, was met with some of the crowd breaking in to conversation and/or heading to the bar for early interval drinks. After the short lived interval however, the band came back with energy to run through a fantastic list of hits that served as a beautiful reminder that this timelessly individual band is not individual at the expense of a great catchy chorus or a danceable beat.
The energy in the room returned to full force by the end when the band finished with the fantastic “Big Night Out” and then even managed to come out a third time for a quick rock ‘n’ roll encore. Ultimately, this was an amazingly performed show of an amazing body of work that, despite the venue’s wonderful stage visibility and audio, felt like it deserved a more personal location. That fact aside, when the hits where coming at the beginning and end of the show, the eruption of the entire venue in to joint song was simply fantastic and I didn’t see a single person leaving without a smile on their face. If you’re an FLC fan you must see this, if you’re a good music fan you should see this, if you’re anyone else, you should give it a go.