First Night, The Streets Apollo, Manchester

Once the Barrett Home Laureate, Skinner is now a canny contender
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The Independent Culture

Original Pirate Material, the debut album by Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, was a touching, thoughtful ode to all the aspects of Britain its media commentators don't comprehend: the boredom, tension and psychic wear of council estate life and weekend wildness.

Original Pirate Material, the debut album by Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, was a touching, thoughtful ode to all the aspects of Britain its media commentators don't comprehend: the boredom, tension and psychic wear of council estate life and weekend wildness.

Skinner's unlooked for status as a Barrett Home laureate hasn't lasted, as newer contenders like Dizzee Rascal have blasted past. The second Streets album, A Grand Don't Come For Free, suggests that Skinner is a long-term, canny contender. Not even trying to top his debut, it side-steps grand expectations to chart the realistic rise and fall of a relationship, in a garage Play For Today. The queue for the start of his UK return snakes round the block nearly three hours before show time, and any idea that Skinner's constituency is now confined to the chattering classes is shattered the moment he ambles into sight.

In the upstairs seats, whole rows run into the aisles and punch the air, as Original Pirate Material favourites, "Turn The Page" and "Let's Push Things Forwards", re-open The Streets.

"It feels like a football match," Skinner decides. "You ain't the opposition are ya?"

For this live version of The Streets, Skinner has surrounded himself with guitar, drums and keyboards, and a co-rapper. But it is Skinner, free-forming, charismatic and yet casually on a level with everyone here, who rules the stage.

With new songs slipped in sparingly, the first album's "Geezers Need Excitement" is transformed by the aggressive, euphoric mood The Streets have set into an expression of testosterone release, shared equally by cheering girls. For now, this triumphant, communal return will have to do.



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