Fun Lovin Criminals break out of Nieuwe Nor (Jail) and leave the audience bereft of illusions

Music venue the ‘Nieuwe Nor’, ‘The New Jail’ in the Dutch city of Heerlen had a sold-out house. And that on an ordinary weekday Thursday evening in October! The Oktoberfest madness was defeated by Fun Lovin’ Criminals. It might have been expected that it would take a band like Fun Lovin’ Criminals to get the Limburgers out of their lederhosen, dirndls and party tent. Whether people are really flexible enough to let Fun Lovin’ Criminals rob them of their hard-earned, inflation-sensitive money on a Thursday evening and then line up for the Oktoberfest on Friday can be considered highly improbable.

Sold out house last Thursday. Fun Lovin’ Criminals. But first, there was the support act Project Blackbird. The band is around American singer Ming Nagel and multi-instrumentalist Jon Read, who some may recognize as the trumpet player with the Specials. (Indeed the band from “A Message to you Rudy”)

Project Blackbird’s brief performance was plagued by the Dutch disease. Even via the speakers, singer Ming’s voice barely got over the Dutch discussing the week’s sorrows with each other over a beer. Go and talk outside! Project Blackbird is a band that deserves audiences who come for them. Alas, their performance was a bit too timid. In that respect, they could learn something from Fun Lovin’ Criminals, in terms of attitude. Just grab that audience by the bones and don’t let them go. Their latest album “If this is the End” is definitely worth listening to. 

After Project Blackbird cleared the stage with polite applause, the audience was soon prepared for the main act with masses of patchouli-like incense and smoke. When finally the lights dimmed and nothing but George Zamfir’s “The Lonely Sheperd” kicked in, it suggested the worst for the rest of the evening. There was no turning back, however. 

Then at the last, dying tones of Zamfir’s pan flute, the wanted criminals finally entered the stage. Dressed in surely not original Savile Row outfits (I mean, they only deliver for free on orders over 60 pounds) Brian ‘Fast’ Leiser, Frank Benbini, and the new criminal, with the shortest criminal record, Naim Cortazzi took the stage. The band obviously employed a familiar criminal practice. Hands went up immediately with the opener ‘ the Fun Lovin Criminal’. Immediately it became clear that the audience present tonight would effortlessly let themselves be robbed of their last resistance. 

The spotlight should be turned for a moment on Naim Cortazzi, the English guitarist who had to step into the shoes of Huey Morgan, that left the band last November. We don’t know that much about Cortazzi yet, other than that he once played with the Happy Mondays and that he likes to sing Curtis Stigers’ “I wonder why” in the shower. But holy crap, what a great guitarist/singer the band has brought in with Cortazzi. Great groove and he is a soloist of guitar god level. Pretty handsome guy too.

The band clearly felt like it and did not slacken for a moment. Frank’s groove was compellingly imposed, Fast as a multi-instrumentalist with a rib-tickling voice directs the band where they need to go. Make no mistake, Fun Loving Criminals may come across as an uber-cool, partying band, but under the hood runs an excellent V8 engine that has already racked up a lot of miles and is of unique, professional excellence.

The band released a new EP with “The Roosevelt Sessions” less than two months ago, but only played “Shake it Loose” from it. Well, it’s not as if this gang doesn’t have enough crowd-pleasers to play a full house crazy with.

“Loco”, “King of New York”, all came by, and the room went along nicely. The energy began to flow back and forth between the men on stage and the audience. It was remarkable to see how much fun the band itself had on stage. The joy of playing really splashed into the hall.

During “Up on the Hill,” the Criminals brought Project Blackbird trumpeter Jon Read back on stage. Fast had given him a day to study the part. Yummy! Slowly but surely the hall was brought to the boiling point. for a moment the lid stayed on. When ‘We, are three’ was started from the sampler there was no stopping. Jailbreak. These criminals deserve unconditional freedom. 

What a party. In the encore “Bear Hug” brings the final blow. The three of them rap on stage. What energy and what fun they have. Run DMC, eat your heart out! Had the Criminals asked for purses and phones at that point, they would have gotten them without question. Fun Lovin Criminals came, saw, and conquered the Nieuwe Nor-Jail, the Detroit of the Netherlands according to Fast, and the audience wholeheartedly agreed. It turned out to be a legendary night.

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