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19 Nov, Tuesday
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Review: Fun Lovin Criminals and Feeder – Harmony Live festival, Holywood

It’s day two at Harmony Live in Holywood and two big bands are on the bill for this evening – The Fun Lovin Criminals and Feeder. As with last night, the weather is kind, although Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals does point out that they are playing “that Puerto Rican shit to scare the clouds away.” The crowds are bigger than last night too. First off are local three piece Dea Matrona. For three quite young girls they make one hell of a noise. Doing mainly covers of well-known rock standards (“Go Your Own Way”, “Cherry Bomb”), they bring a bucket-load of attitude and energy to their performance.

It has to be said that Dea Matrona seemed to suit the larger outdoor festival stage set-up and the early evening crowd love them. As an opening act, they draw a fair number of people to the stage. They finish on an original song and “Just Wanna Rock” is a straight-down-the-line 4/4 time rock and roll number, heavy on guitar licks and choruses.

Over on the Forrestside Live stage, Lucy Bell does a lovely set and her voice remains as ethereal and atmospheric as ever. There was a really clever and percussive mash-up of the Police’s “Walking On The Moon” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” We get to hear Lucy’s new single “Lost On The Line” and she ends on a soaring version of the Cranberries’ “Zombie.”

The Fun Lovin’ Criminals are one of this particular reviewer’s bucket list bands and, being completely honest, were the main reason I was standing in a damp field while Liverpool won the Champions League final. They did not disappoint. Right from the big, jangling Tarantino-esque instrumental introduction the crowd knew they were in for something special.

On tracks like “You Gotta Be Crazy” and “Back On The Block” the sumptuous latin and jazz flavours of their music shone through. Huey Morgan is not only a smooth and charming frontman for the band, he is a much better guitarist than I ever gave him credit for.

Frank Benbini on drums drives the rhythm with real snap and Brian Leiser alternates between bass, keys, harmonica and trumpet. Disaster strikes a few bars into “The King Of New York” as all the stage electrics die. Huey charms the crowd and five minutes later things are up and running again. The band dedicate “Smoke Em” to the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day before taking their own advice and smoking whatever they had. It’s terrible to see a band so fallen on hard times that they only have one large cigarette to share between the three of them..

Further sound problems dog the remainder of their set, with the PA system cutting in and out, but it doesn’t affect the fun that the crowd are having. The band point out that it’s their sound man’s first night on the job before noting (jokingly) that it might also be his last. They bring the love back with the Barry White tribute “Love Unlimited” before the highlight of the entire night, “Scooby Snacks.” By this point the entire crowd are bouncing and this is inch and note perfect, including the movie dialogue samples.

They can’t leave without an encore and we get an entertaining romp through “The Fun Lovin Criminal” and this comes complete with punchy guitar licks, trumpet and harmonica breaks and full-on whooping and hollering. There are hundreds of hands punching the air through this song.  Magic stuff.

Feeder are regular visitors to Belfast and are stalwarts of the summer festival music scene; they will usually pull big crowds venues like the Limelight. Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant  Song” plays over the PA as the band take the stage; if you were expecting something as heavy as the background music, you would have been disappointed.

Feeder are lighter, poppier even – full of energy and fun – a no-nonsense band that just gets up on stage and plays. Grant Nicholas has a decent voice and a good range, and both he and the rest of the band are tight and together – pretty much what you would expect from former winners of Kerrang’s Best Live Band award. The band race through “Feeling A Moment,” “Renegades” and “Lost and Found” gathering pace with each song.

There isn’t much let up – this is all done at a fairly high tempo but the band involve the crowd on the chorus of “Just The Way I’m Feeling” which is full of catchy guitar hooks and lyrics. “Buck Rogers” is the big tune of their set and this is introduced with slow dreamy synth sounds before the trademark bass line and chopping rhythm guitar kick in. This is great fun and gets a massive reaction from the crowd.

There’s time for some tracks from the band’s upcoming album release Tallulah, of which the best might well be their new single “Fear of Flying.” This lends itself to some more audience participation with Nicholas getting the crowd involved in some call-and-response singing on the chorus.

This was a noticeable change of gear from Friday evening’s show at Harmony Live, with bigger crowds and louder bands. The Fun Lovin Criminals were the highlight of the evening (at least in this reviewer’s humble opinion), although Feeder delivered a solid and high energy set loaded with enough chart hits to send the crowd home happy.

Tomorrow evening sees the return of Alabama 3 to Northern Ireland, supported by Ciaran Lavery and Villiers and The Villains, and it promises to bring a very different atmosphere to what has gone before. Bring it on.

Photographer and sometime reviewer with an eclectic taste in all things visual and musical. Still struggles to understand jazz.