The cheering swells and the irony thickens.
Ah, the irony. On his year’s-end victory lap tour, gap-toothed suburban street poet Mike Skinner finds himself playing the live room of Bristol University to a room full of beered-up rugby jocks and bulging trust-fund wallets. We’re definitely not in Birmingham anymore.
Still, the fact that the audience are all bawling “Skinner! Skinner!” is evidence of the way in which ‘Original Pirate Material’ has became a modern urban phenomenon, bringing the underground sounds of south London speed garage to the attention of the world. Antsy Cockney-Brum rumblings have become one of the defining sounds of 2002, as Skinner pilfers the aggressive beats of pirate radio and twists them into easy-on-the-ear social anthems with all the bite and none of the sting.
Accordingly, tonight’s greatest moments are those that sound most familiar. ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’ combines urban 2-Step with ska rhythms and a trumpet line lifted straight out of The Special’s deathless ‘Ghost Town’, while Kevin Mark Trail’s soulful vocals nudge ‘Has It Come To This’ further towards Modjo’s club classic ‘Lady’. But it’s Skinner’s lairy banter and narcotic references that cause the greatest excitement amongst: “I’m pissed on brandy” provokes crazed cheers, while “anyone here on pills?” causes much saucer-eyed flailing. Because The Streets‘ outstanding success is to bring people – silver spoons or not – together in a universal goal to get fucked and party hard. But Mike Skinner is clever enough to know exactly what he’s doing. Even after dishing out the stereotypes, he leaves the stage with a warning: “don’t mug yourself, Bristol”. The cheering swells and the irony thickens.