Simon Leak - Steven Gerrards No.1 fan

Great as his music is, lyrics are at the heart of what makes Mike Skinner special. You wouldn’t however know this if you were at Brixton Academy, as verse after verse was lost to a muddy sound mix. That said, the majority of the crowd either didn’t notice or didn’t care as Brixton most definitely bounced to the sound of The Streets.

Skinner was at his best when demonstrating the breadth of styles he can call on, most notably on the fantastic Specials skank of “Lets Push Things Forward”. Equally in what could be dubbed the “E Section” he transformed the Academy into a sweaty congregation of ravers worshipping the twin gods of Ecstasy and the Chicago House piano. “Blinded By The Lights” and “Weak Become Heroes” are the closest anyone will ever get to audibly administering an E. If the reaction of the crowd was anything to go by Skinner would be wise to add a few classic house tracks to album No.4.

The new material fared less well with “Memento Mori” & “All Goes Out The Window” particularly forgettable, but at least better than the turgid “War Of The Sexes”. Vocalist Leo strapped a bass guitar on for the number, but it didnt appear to be plugged in… or if it was the guy on the mixing desk couldn’t find his fader.

Check out Simon Leaks myspace for some superb pics of the night (a couple seen above and below).

Setlist

“Pranging Out” and the two singles did show that its not all about the older tunes. “Never Went To Church” with its “Let It Be” riff was genuinely moving. How people sing tributes to departed love ones every night on tour is beyond me, it brought a lump to my throat let alone anyone directly involved? With the lines “I miss you dad” Skinner seemed close to tears, but at least everyone present knew the answer to the chorus’s “I hope I made you feel proud?”

With tongue planted firmly in cheek Mike proclaimed his co-vocalist “The second best R&B singer in the UK” second only to Craig David, and for much of the show Leo was centre stage and working the crowd. During the epic strings of “Turn The Page” the track that opened “Original Pirate Material” in such breathtaking style Leo came on stage in boxers gown, shadowing punching. If Stallone needs accompaniment to the running up the stairs lifting logs scene in Rocky 6 he need look no further!

Leo’s vocals were impressive particularly on the outstanding “Has It Come To This” while his warped take on the Pussycat Dolls at the end of “Lets Push Things Forward” got huge cheers:

“Dont you wish your boyfriend was hot like me?..Don’t you wish your boyfriend licked your pussy like me…don’t cha”

For some reason Simon took hundreds of shots of Mikes arse?

The ladies in the crowd went bonkers, while the men wore expressions that said “oh yes and what’s wrong with my technique!?”Mike’s attempts at lothario weren’t quite as successful, at one point he beckoned what I assume was a pretty girl up on stage only to be thwarted when the security guy misheard him and plucked a hairy arsed bloke out of the crowd… much to Skinners horror.

For an encore Mike staged a mini celebration of UK rap, kicking off with a bizarre rendition of “Land Of Hope & Glory”, complete with huge union flag backdrop. I half expected Brian May to bound on for a reprise of his rooftop Jubilee performance, only his poodle headed presence could have made it more grating than it was.

Thankfully The Mitchell Brothers appeared for a rendition of the No.1 that never was “Harvey Nicks”, unfortunately they decided to shout every single line so destroying its wit and charm. Even the appearance of Sway, swaggering on to stage confident in the knowledge that he’s the best rapper in the building couldn’t save it, although its always a joy to hear his show stealing lines:

“A little girl with a pen ran up to me and said “I know who you are”

But when I gave her my autograph she said “Mum… is this how u spell Lemar?”

New Beats signing and star of the inspired remake of “When you wasn’t famous” Professor Green also guested although he didn’t get much of a chance to impress. Lastly Kano all to briefly came on during closer “Fit But You Know It” and Brixton enjoyed one final bout of jumping up and down.

In general The Streets couldn’t have been received to much more acclaim, but the bad sound, and some lacklustre tracks meant I was slightly disappointed by it all. It is however impossible to deny just how good The Streets back catalogue is, and what a fantastic lyricist Skinner remains.

“Dry Your Eyes” stood out as a beautifully observed tale of lost love, its restrained music meant that the lyrics were not swamped by the dodgy sound that crippled so much of the night. Skinner was totally clear and eloquent, while Leo’s chorus’s tugged the heart strings, soaring to a peak finally for “It’s Over”.

The Streets Info:

Website: The Streets / Myspace / Visit Mike’s for his blog, videos from his camera phone and more

Video: When You Wasn’t Famous (Professor Green version) (Real Hi / Real Lo)- Great remix, and a cameo by Jodie Marsh showing she has a decent sense of humour.

When You Wasn’t Famous (You Tube)

MP3: Its Too Late (Alternate Version)

Never Went To Church (Live @ Brixton Academy 11/05/06)