Maybe a twinge of nostalgia stirred in Mike Skinner when ‘Original Pirate Material’ turned 15-years-old last year and there was a flurry of pieces looking back on its brilliance. Whatever his motivation, this week The Streets will play their first shows in the UK since signing off (in Skegness, no less) in 2011. The gigs, which sold out in minutes, begin in Skinner’s old stomping ground Birmingham and round-off with three huge nights at O2 Academy London.
It’s billed as a “greatest hits tour”, and when Mike Skinner confirmed the news about the comeback, he joked he’d “missed tour buses very much”, adding “it’s been long enough”. Yes, seven long years since he put on his Classics to have a little dance and perform live as The Streets.
Course, there were a few raised eyebrows when the news landed. Skinner sounded adamant when he told The Guardian “The Streets is finished” at the beginning of the decade just before the release of their fifth and final album, going on to say “I have no interest in repeating myself”. He recently said the decision wasn’t based on the pay-day, telling Mr Porter “I don’t need the cash, otherwise I’d have done all the festivals, and the offers we got were insane”.
But here we are. As part of this tour, The Streets have already played shows in Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin (Skinner’s been making short videos of the highlights after each night. So here’s what to expect from the UK leg. Just a warning, if you don’t want to know all the details, we suggest you stop reading now…
Who are The Streets in 2018?
As reunions go, this is one of the less complicated ones since Mike Skinner is The Streets. No inter-band wrangling, here. For these shows, he’s surrounded himself with a white-hot live band of five members. It includes long-term collaborator Robert Harvey on guitar, formerly of baggy-rockers The Music, and the other half of Skinner’s collaborative project The DOT. The soulful Kevin Mark Trail joins him on vocal duties for large parts of the set, swapping flanks of the stage, but it’s still a show that’s led by Skinner. Who, by the way, is looking in top shape for a guy now into his late-30s.
Sorry, it’s bad news if ‘Computers And Blues’ is your favourite Streets album… but since that’s no-one, that’s okay. Skinner wasn’t fibbin’ when he dubbed this the “greatest hits” tour. It’s a show that doesn’t skimp on the popular stuff – dominated by material from 2002’s ‘Original Pirate Material’ and 2004’s ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’, plus a few others. That means you’re getting ‘Turn The Page’, ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’, ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’, ‘Has It Come To This?’, ‘Never Went To Church’, ‘Could Well Be In’ and ‘Dry Your Eyes’. At the shows already, there’s also been an encore of ‘Weak Become Heroes’, ‘Blinded by the Lights’ and ‘Fit But You Know It’ – a rendition that features a short blast of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. That’s also a cheeky nod to Birmingham sons Black Sabbath, too. Given Mike Skinner has released five new tracks since sharing news of these shows, he hasn’t been going heavy on the fresh stuff – just ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, which sounds great. Plus ‘Your Wave God’s Wave God’ which he released as The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light.
The years he’s spent since the last shows DJing at his Tonga club nights have fed Skinner’s hunger for entertaining. He looks like he’s missed it, standing on a risen block at the front of the stage, constantly chatting to the first few rows. The set itself is smartly paced. Not all The Streets’ best songs are bangers, but the tempo never lulls. Nor does the frontman’s energy. He showers the crowd in Champagne, parts the audience to initiate a “wall of death” and has been ending the gigs by taking his top off to crowd-surf from the back to the front of the venue. So, if you can still somehow get a ticket – do. It’s common sense, simple common sense.