REVIEW: Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Gala Durham, BRASS Festival

Fun Lovin' Criminals at Durham Gala, photo by Dave Hudspeth
Fun Lovin' Criminals at Durham Gala, photo by Dave Hudspeth
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Look up “cool” in a dictionary and a picture of Huey Morgan should be there.

Twenty years after their first ever gig in a bar in New York, the slick sound of Fun Lovin’ Criminals is still going strong.

Fun Lovin' Criminals at Durham Gala, photo by Dave Hudspeth

Fun Lovin' Criminals at Durham Gala, photo by Dave Hudspeth

But this was FLC as you’ve never seen them before. Their tracks, a cocktail of funk, blues, jazz and soul, were given even more oomphhh with the addition of a horn section.

And we have the annual music spectacular, BRASS Festival, to thank for that.

At the helm of this perfect musical marriage was the irrepressibly charismatic Huey.

Clad all in white, accessorised with bling and tattoos, he had the Gala audience in the palm of his hand from the get go. As a frontman, he has that certain je ne sais quoi you can’t quite put your finger on, but whatever it is it’s mesmeric.

Fun Lovin' Criminals at Durham Gala, photo by Dave Hudspeth

Fun Lovin' Criminals at Durham Gala, photo by Dave Hudspeth

“You ready to get brassy, you so sassy,” he purred to the audience in his laid-back New York lilt. It’s a distinctive twang that’s echoed in his singing voice, an intoxicating oxymoron of gravel and velvet, that helped propel the trio to a platinum-selling band.

The seats were stripped from the Gala for this performance so we could stand and it worked perfectly for a gig of this ilk. We felt as if we were in some kind of Brooklyn jazz hall as we swayed to the smooth sounds of classic FLC tracks such as Friday Night, Up On The Hill and The King of New York.

Music-wise, Huey, Frank and Fast have a rich, full sound anyway, which was given extra vivacity with the trombone, trumpet and sax players who’ve worked with some of the biggest names in music.

“We love playing, we love experimenting, we got these cats and they’re killing it. We love playing for you,” said the singer turned BBC broadcaster. And you genuinely get the impression they do - I’m not sure Huey’s the kind of guy who would do anything he didn’t want to.

Artistas del Gremio

Artistas del Gremio

Their most famous tracks, Love Unlimited and Scooby Snacks, sounded as fresh and funk-laden as they did on their original release and had us all riding a mellow wave of chilled vibes.

The final track played tribute to arguably the greatest horn-player of all time, Louis Armstrong. And All the Time in the World was delivered with reverential panache.

Special mention must also go to FLC’s support act, Artistas del Gremio. The Spanish brass band were a mass of mullets, Lord of the Flies-esque costumes and eyebrow piercings. It was brass, but not as we know it, as they delivered a brass mash up of tracks such as Gangsta’s Paradise, Bohemian Rhapsody and even Bloodhound Gang’s Bad Touch, complete with hip thrusts. Boy, could they blow.

The celebration of brass, in all its forms, from colliery to a bit crazy, continues all weekend in Durham with Streets of Brass. Miss it and you’ll be brassed right off.