The Streets, Apollo, Manchester
Tuesday 18 May 2004
The debut album by Mike Skinner, a.k.a. The Streets, (Original Pirate Material) was a touching, thoughtful ode to all the aspects of modern Britain its media commentators don't comprehend: the boredom, tension and psychic wear of council estate life and weekend wildness. Bought by many as a cheap passport to this real British mainstream, Skinner's unlooked-for status as a Barratt Home laureate hasn't lasted, as newer contenders like Dizzee Rascal have blasted past. But the new Streets album, A Grand Don't Come For Free does suggests that Skinner is a long-term, canny contender.
Not even trying to top his debut, it sidesteps grand expectations to chart the realistic rise and fall of a relationship, in a garage-style Play For Today. Summing up his times like a latter-day Ray Davies, Skinner ends the album relying only on himself. The queue for the start of his UK return snakes round the block nearly three hours before showtime, 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 Forward" fill the room. The latter song's Specials-style brass and crowd-bonding lyrics - "This ain't a track, it's a movement" - stoke the roaring and celebratory mood. "Oi! Oi!" is a favoured cry, from Skinner and the crowd. "This feels like a football match," he decides. "You ain't the opposition, are ya ?"
For this live version of The Streets, Skinner has surrounded himself with an expert band, and a co-rapper who daringly takes both male and female roles. But it is Skinner, slouching, goading, free-forming, charismatic and yet casually on a level with everyone here, who rules the stage. How much of his pill-popping, shoulder-rolling, leery persona is an act is open to question. But this Manchester crowd, stuffed with people who fit that bill without needing to try, treat him as one of their own without reservation. They chant "Skin-ner !" like he's just scored a hat-trick, while a warm fug of sweat fills the air, the atmosphere mid-way between match day and club night. With unfamiliar new songs slipped in sparingly, the first album's "Geezers Need Excitement" and "Has It Come To This ?" give the set an anthemic core. The former song is stripped by the unrelentingly aggressive euphoric mood.
The Streets have set into an expression of pure testosterone release, shared equally by cheering girls. Its questioning social commentary is left for another day. The romantic tragicomedy of a new track like "Could Well Be In" has little place tonight, either. Only future single "Dry Your Eyes", Skinner's requiem to a doomed relationship, effectively suggests his sensitive side.
Perhaps when respectability or pretentiousness really set in, he will perform A Grand Don't Come For Free as a moving song-cycle at the Albert Hall. For now, this triumphant, communal return will have to do.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Britain First picture: Photographer 'horrified' after first Afghan policewoman killed by Taliban used for 'ban the burka' campaign
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, review: Revolution still seems far off
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God