Fun Lovin’ Criminals warm up Newcastle on a snowy night

Huey Morgan, the charismatic leader of Fun Lovin’ Criminals, is one of the few frontmen who could still exude cool while playing guitar sat in a big red leather chair.

By Gary Welford
Saturday, 02 February, 2019, 18:15
Fun Lovin' Criminals frontman Huey Morgan takes it easy at Northumbria Institute in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford

That’s just what he did as one of New York City’s finest musical exports brought their Another Mimosa tour to Northumbria Institute in Newcastle last night.

The show was the second date to promote their new album of the same name, and even the fact his right leg was in a brace due to a broken foot couldn’t put them off their stride.

Fun Lovin' Criminals brought their Another Mimosa tour to Northumbria University in Newcastle.

With a liberal supply of codeine and Remy Martin to help ease the pain, the BBC Radio 6 DJ led his cohorts through a set which sent everyone present home with a warm glow on a freezing cold night.

FLC are a slick outfit who mix funk, hip-hop, rock, blues, jazz and R&B, and, as you’d expect, their new album was to the fore on the setlist, with seven of its 12 tracks making the cut.

They opened with the Link Wray instrumental Rumble, and quickly followed with Neil Diamond’s Hello Again, before dropping one of their own big tunes, King Of New York, just three songs in. If the crowd needed any convincing they were in for a good night, that did the trick.

The next hour and a half was spent journeying back and forth through some of their choice back-catalogue cuts, as well as showcasing tunes from the new album.

Fun Lovin' Criminals founder member Fast showed what a talented multi-instrumentalist he is, often playing several things at the same time. Pic: Gary Welford.

Of the former, Smoke ‘Em, Bombing The L and the wonderful Scooby Snacks from their acclaimed debut album Come Find Yourself were received like the old friends they are. Was it really 23 years ago?

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There were tracks from more recent records too; big hitters Up On The Hill, Love Unlimited and Big Night Out from second album 100% Colombian (though Korean Bodega was sadly notable by its absence), and the title tracks of the Loco and Classic Fantastic albums.

Of the new songs, FLC’s version of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Mary Jane’s Last Dance slipped down a treat, as did Daylight, their take on the Bobby Womack/Georgie Fame classic

The only mis-step of the night was the main set closer Sunset, which Huey himself admitted “we might need to look at”, though there were few dissenting voices in the crowd.

Frankie 'The Rhythm Man' Benbini was a rock-solid presence on drums for Fun Lovin' Criminals. Pic: Gary Welford.

They redeemed themselves with a three-song encore featuring the excellent Friday Night from the under-rated 2003 album Welcome To Poppy’s , before closing with their ‘theme song’, The Fun Lovin’ Criminal.

As Huey was helped back onto his crutches to leave the stage it was to a well-deserved ovation, but don’t make the mistake in thinking that FLC are all about him and his NYC street cool.

Fellow founding member Fast (Brian Leiser) showed what a versatile musician he is by playing bass, synths, trumpet and harmonica, while Frankie ‘The Rhythm Man’ Benbini (who said the time he spent working at the Spanish City at Whitley Bay as a teenager “was the best year of my life”) didn’t miss a beat on the drums.

Like a fine wine, or a glass of Huey’s tipple of choice this evening, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals simply seem to get better with age.