Live Review: The Streets

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UEA, Norwich, Monday 28th February

For a moment there, back in 2002, [a]The Streets[/a] were the future. A first-listen-classic to many, [b]‘Original Pirate Material’[/b] was not so much a gateway as a floodgate; a fertile, formative beast of a record of almost Darwinian significance. [b]‘OPM’[/b] turned many of us with a thirst for novelty on to alternative hip-hop, post-garage D&B and most notably grime, a chain of underground distributaries whose influence would eventually trickle back to one bright upstart by the name of [b]Alex Turner[/b].

Fast-forward nine years: [b]Norwich UEA[/b], scene of the modern-retro ziggurat architecture which graces the cover of [a]The Streets[/a]’ final album [b]‘Computers And Blues’[/b]. Skinheads everywhere, and [a]The Streets[/a]’ days are numbered. [b]‘Fit But You Know It’[/b]’s furious, pounding guitar stabs induce onrushes of mayhem. Bouncers hungrily eye up an expanding contingent of potential troublemakers. True to his cheeky persona, Mike ain’t much help. “[i]I can’t smell marijuana yet… Someone should just spark up[/i],” he teases. “[i]Don’t be shy – they all do it in Norway[/i]!”

The [b]‘OPM’[/b]-heavy setlist would leave only the harshest critic disappointed. A solitary snare drop is all it takes to ignite [b]‘Don’t Mug Yourself’[/b] delirium, and the dirty organ pulse of [b]‘Let’s Push Things Forward’[/b] jumps with the energy of a whole room treasuring it one last time. For a moment, it was the future, and before long it’ll be a figment of the past.

[a]The Streets’[/a] spirit, though, will live on: it shines brightly within Skinner-endorsed, don’t-call-it-post-grime [b]MC Ghostpoet[/b] for one; and in view of [a]Arctic Monkeys[/a]’ phalanx of imitators, we’d wager Skinner DNA will be at the roots of peculiarly intriguing flowerings 20, 30 years from now.

Back in the infancy of a decade that never quite grew into its potential, [a]The Streets[/a] pushed things forward like no other. And sure, there’ll be those who say Mike’s post-[b]‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’[/b] output reeked of cod philosophies and stale humour. But as [b]‘The Escapist’[/b] swells and surrounds Norwich UEA for the last time, there’s a sea of hands, a chorus of voices, that wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jazz Monroe

The Streets’ ‘Computers and Blues’ NME album review